May 14, 2009 05:54 PM

With the Santa Barbara County wildfire now 80 percent contained, 30,000 evacuated residents are returning to their homes and collecting their pets and livestock from local shelters to bring home. “Most have been redeemed by the owners over the last few days,” says Jan Glick, animal services director Santa Barbara County. As of Wednesday, more than 100 animals remained at the Santa Barbara Humane Society and other shelters.

The blaze destroyed 78 homes and damaged 11 others after the fire began May 5, apparently started by power tools in the hills. Animal services is assisting those who lost homes with relocating their animals. Glick estimates “thousands” of pets and livestock were evacuated with most residents making their own arrangements, but the county animal services department, the Santa Barbara Humane Society and several kennels and stables housed almost 1,000 animals, including more than 400 cats, 143 dogs, some 200 horses, dozens of rabbits, chickens, goats and other livestock. “Some of our volunteers had been evacuated from their homes but they were here helping out,” says Glick.

Assisting were volunteer groups like the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, which found cages for almost 200 cats, and the Santa Barbara polo fields, which opened up their grounds for displaced horses. PetSmart donated supplies and organizations like United Animal Nation helped set up evacuation centers.

“We have a good network in our community, and had a good coordinated response,” says Glick. “Santa Barbara really cares about its pets and wildlife,” she says, noting that residents will need to be vigilant in the coming weeks and months to be on the lookout for mountain lions and other predators who lost 8733 acres of their habitat to the fire. “People who live here need to have a plan.”

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