.How Santa Cruz County is Caring for Storm Evacuee Pets

Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter has been working with temporary shelters to keep pets and their owners together

Despite her name, Mayhem—a charismatic 2-month-old “Great Pyrenees” puppy—brings a moment of respite from the storm for many at the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds temporary evacuation shelter. Most grateful for her calming presence is her owner, Rory Stanton of Santa Cruz. His gray hoodie and large rain boots shroud him, and his eyes shift around nervously. But he lights up whenever Mayhem is mentioned.

“If she wasn’t allowed, I wouldn’t be here,” he says as the puppy pulls at his sweatshirt strings. “She’s my everything.”

The inseparable pair have spent the last two days hunkering down at the temporary shelter serving as a haven for people and their pets displaced by storm evacuations. Santa

Cruz County Animal Shelter has been working with temporary shelters to keep pets with their owners and out of animal shelters during the storms. “Our approach is different compared to fire evacuations,” SCCAS attorney Cara Townsend says. “It’s less stressful for people and pets.” 

The animal shelter’s team has worked with the Fairgrounds shelter, run by the Red Cross, to host animals alongside people. The shelter asks all non-service animals to come with crates, but they are ready to dole out pet food, dishes and necessities, says Jenny Arrieta from the Red Cross communications team. Unlike other shelters, pets are welcome to join people indoors by their cots. Technically, all pets must be kept in crates, but most seem alright if that rule is overlooked.

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“I was afraid,” Karla Villalobos, who evacuated her home in Pajaro, says. “I wasn’t sure who would take care of them.” She flips through photos of Shadow and Bandit, her 1-year-old husky and border collie mix, and her 1-year-old pomsky—a Siberian husky and Pomeranian mix—who wait in their crates by her cot. 

“It’s just nice to be able to have them with me,” she says as she smiles at their photos. 

Some, like Stanton, wouldn’t have gone to a shelter if pets weren’t allowed, and, believe it or not, some left their pets at home with no idea of when they’d be returning—this was seen during the CZU Lightning Complex fire, as Good Times reported. Rescue teams regularly found abandoned pets. Villalobos was nervous that she might go to work one day and be unable to return home due to the storms. She worried she wouldn’t know where to find her dogs if someone came to save them.

Cabrillo College’s Santa Cruz shelter also accepts pets, but they’re asking them to be kept in owners’ cars in the parking garage and may be walked on the main roadway off campus, according to a volunteer at the shelter. 

SCCAS urges people to have an evacuation plan for their pets. Additionally, owners should have a week’s supply of food, water, medication (if needed), a crate and a litter box with litter. If your pets can’t join you and friends or family can’t assist, the shelter will house and care for your animal(s) for free. While the SCCAS is happy to have your dog, cat, horse, tortoise or any other pet during tumultuous times, their ultimate hope is that pets and their people can stay together. 

Like Stanton says, not having Mayhem is a dealbreaker. He might not know what will come next for him after the storms, but he knows his best pal will be with him.

Visit scanimalshelter.org for more info.

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