Animal rescue efforts

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While there are serious unverified claims of more than three dozen horses having died in the Corral Fire, and wildlife was affected drastically, many domestic and wild animals were rescued through efforts of local residents and officials.

Malibu resident Sherman Baylin, who runs a local rescue organization, and several residents helped rescue a donkey name Chiquita, which belongs to Corral Canyon resident Ben Kennedy, as well as many other animals.

Baylin mentioned several people who helped her during this time: “Janet Katz and Sue Glasscock asked, ‘How do we help? What can I do? Put me to work,'” Baylin said. “Brian and Jenny Pietro from Zuma Beach Hardware Store [now Bu Malibu] walked right in and said, ‘Use me.’ They do the feeding, cleaning, walking, and phone calling. They’re the ones that make it possible for us to go out into the field and do what we need to do. So many people go out and rescue animals, and then just sit with them in the car. A lot of people know they can bring them here and we have a full crew to do everything.”

“During the fire, we never left any animal alone,” Baylin said, describing the efforts of her two assistants, Kerry Baglio and Jamie Ginkgo, who spent nights at the rescue place watching over the animals. “They don’t stop. It’s a huge relief because if I have 35 animals stuffed in here they’re OK with the birds, rabbits, and cats. We’re known as a good drop-off center and we’re open 24 hours a day during emergencies.”

Help came from all corners. Bill Mason and Steve Karsh from Malibu Surf Reality who had just furnished their office with new carpets and computers said to Baylin, “‘Here’s the key. Keep the key. If you need to fill up our shop with animals, do your thing, because we love animals here. We’re in this together.'”

“So I put in a couple of cages of chickens and one blind guinea pig,” Baylin said.

Baylin ticked off name of others who pitched in during the fires such as veterinarian Dean Graulich, who, she said, “provides anything we need is at our disposal. He couldn’t have been any more gracious with everything.”

Baylin’s rescue team, including Mark Meador and Steven Brandywine, is well equipped with a truck and trailer, fire equipment, halters, bandages and lead ropes.

Explaining how they handle emergencies, Baylin said, “The first thing we always do is let our neighbors know that we’re going to be gone. We always need to stop, take a minute, and come up with a plan because if you rush into a home then you could be harming the fire department and the animals you want to get out.”

Describing being on the scene during the fire, Baylin said, “Steven and I were there when the houses started to blow up and the animals with that. First you hear this quiet howl, but not from the animals. It was from the propane ‘rrrrooosh,’ and that’s when you feel your skin sort of peeling.”

Baylin and her team rescued approximately 35 animals; all lived she said, although some suffered a few burns.

Doreen Clay of Pierce College reported that approximately 100 animals had been rescued during the Corral Fire. Of the 100 animals rescued and brought to the college there were: 67 horses, 12 sheep, 6 goats, 2 cages of chickens and 1 pot bellied pig.

Wildlife on the run

Tim Weiss, manager of the California Wildlife Center, talked about the wildlife surviving the Corral Fire (and fires in general). He said they did not receive any injured wildlife from the Corral Fire.

“Animals seem to do OK,” Wise said. “They know what to do when there’s a fire. They run away. Some will flee into their burrows.”

However, that doesn’t mean there were no deaths or injuries. Malibu resident Brad Stanley had sent a photo to The Malibu Times of a badly injured raccoon, whose inflamed red skin could be seen beneath its fur near its feet. And hikers might come across carcasses in coming month if crows and ravens haven’t eaten the remains of dead animals. “Displaced animals that survived will flee to the periphery of the burn area [and] are expected to return and repopulate,” Weiss said.

A disaster pet plan for Malibu?

During the 2007 wildfires, San Diegans were successful in using new emergency plans designed for helping pets and people stay together, sparing them added separation trauma.

FEMA provides grants under the 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act to create an emergency plan for pets and service animals.

San Diego’s Department of Animal Services also worked with the Humane Society and SPCA and the Red Cross. Pet owners could camp out at designated shelters to care personally for their small pets while their pets were tagged and information was documented on the owners. Pet crates, food, and water were provided, along with medical supplies with onboard vets who arrived in a specially equipped RV.

For the first time Del Mar Fairgrounds became one of the county’s evacuation centers for people and their larger four-legged friends: mostly horses, a few donkeys, zebras, llamas and goats were given refuge from the fire, along with their owners. Volunteers fed them 1,300 bales of hay-based feed and made them comfortable by lining Del Mar’s stalls with 5,000 bales of shavings. Veterinarians provided checkups, while the racetrack posted pictures on its Web site of a few equine guests whose owners could not be immediately identified.

Two thousand cots and 2,500 pillows and blankets were rounded up to help make 2,200 fire refugees comfortable.

Lt. Daniel DeSousa of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services said, “It was a ‘win-win’ situation for both the pets and their owners.”