As flames torched the Black Forest community in June, causing the greatest damage total in Colorado history, a desperate effort to save lives played out repeatedly.
The lives in this case were people’s pets – hundreds of them – who suddenly lost their shelter and the fleeing people who cared for them.
In all, 672 animals were pulled out of the flames by an animal rescue effort led by a team from the Humane Society of the Pike’s Peak Region. In the aftermath of the inferno, 1,200 animals had been sheltered in the Colorado Springs facility.
“What was really exciting is that more than 99 percent of them were returned to their owners,” said Joseph Stafford, director of animal law enforcement for HSPPR.
Stafford had 17 teams of professionals working the burn area. It was too dangerous for untrained volunteers; their turn would come later, when the animals had to be transported and cared for.
But such efforts take money. Now, Chuck & Don’s, a pet supply store with five Colorado outlets, is holding a fundraiser through the end of July to benefit the Special Operations Response Team (S.O.R.T.) of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.
The goal is to raise at least $8,000 so that Stafford’s team can buy more life-saving equipment. One-hundred percent of all donations received by Chuck & Don’s during their Raising Awareness for Animals Affected by Wildfires Fundraiser will go to S.O.R.T
“We started a relationship with them last year,” said Christine Stanton, Colorado district manager for Chuck & Don’s. “Our customers know about our involvement in animal welfare and they asked if we were going to help with the Black Forest fire.
“S.O. R.T. put in 3,000 hours helping animals,” she said. “As a company, we like to support animal-related efforts.”
Stafford is excited about the growing web of collaborative animal disaster rescue organizations in Colorado.
His organization manages a big swath of southern Colorado. The Colorado Humane Society, part of the Dumb Friends League, handles animal law enforcement in a number of Colorado counties. Code 3 Associates, a professional animal disaster response team, operates out of Longmont. PetAid Disaster Services, a branch of PetAid Colorado, is emerging as a statewide presence.
“We share a coordinated vision for Coloradans,” Stafford said.
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