Helping Pets When their Humans are in Crisis

JakeLHS

Meet Jake, currently adoptable at LHS. He’s A Collie Smooth/German Shepherd, 7 years old.

In Northern Colorado we have great local non-profit animal organizations to help keep animals safe and find them good homes. What you may not know are all the ways non-profits like the Larimer Humane Society (LHS) support animals (and their humans) in “sticky situations” or in crisis. To learn more, I talked with Bill Porter, Captain of Animal Protection & Control to find out more about the other aspects of the LHS at work.

“Larimer Humane Society is like an animal jail, hospital, and foster home all in one,” says Porter. He explains how LHS does their best to keep the animal/human bond intact in a variety of stressful situations, including natural disasters such as floods or fires, down to more personal situations, like if an owner gets arrested or an animal happens to be in the car while the owner is in a traffic accident.

“First and foremost, we will keep the animal safe, take it to the vet if needed and then work with the owner to make sure we can reunite them in a safe environment,” adds Porter.

The Situation Determines the Level of Care

Porter explained to me there is no one defined policy at this time because each situation is unique, and LHS needs to base the level of care on the circumstances. So, I asked him to walk me through a few scenarios to share the “other” kind of animal care they provide.

Natural Disasters

Within the last few years, Northern Colorado has experienced extreme weather that has led to devastating fires and floods. In those moments when owners need to make very fast, educated decisions about how to manage their own safety, pets can sometimes get disconnected from them or lost in the panic of the situation. Quick evacuations can also leave animals in a dangerous area.

“In the case of the floods where people had a little time to prepare, LHS was able to provide dog and kitty daycare. People just needed us to watch their animals while they talked with FEMA, for example,” says Porter. “During the fire danger, we were busing animals out of the fire zone, as many people weren’t sure when they would be back to claim the animal or return to their home.”

“With the most recent fires, LHS took care of approximately 600 animals for displaced folks, including some small farm animals,” says Porter. “We coordinate with other local organizations to manage the large livestock, or they are often taken to the local fairgrounds by the sheriff to get them to safety and manage their care in one location.”

“We will hold onto the animal until people are allowed back in their homes. If people don’t have a home, they will hold onto animals for a few more days at no charge until they can find a temporary residence and reunite,” says Porter.

Savannah is a 5 years old domestic shorthair Tortie, available for adoption now.

Introducing Savannah, a 5 years old domestic shorthair Tortie.

Traffic Accident or Injury that Requires Hospital Care

Sometimes a person is taken to the hospital after a traffic accident or life-altering illness with no time to call friends or family, or there is simply no one around to care for the animal in the owner’s absence. If that happens LHS Animal Control takes the animal into protective custody.

“If someone has to go to the hospital after a traffic accident or something happens in the home (through no fault of their own), LHS will transport and hold onto the animal or animals for five days, at no charge to the owner. We do our best to try to get in touch with the owner as soon as possible and get the animal(s) to a friend of family member if possible, or arrange for a friend or family member to pick it up.

“The most common scenario is a traffic accident. A dog is with the passenger and they are taken to the hospital, so animal control is at the scene to take the animal into custody and examination by a vet. Surprisingly, most the time the animal is just fine, even though it’s scared,” says Porter.

It's a turtle named Ekaterina! How could I resist sharing her photo?

It’s a turtle named Ekaterina! How could I resist sharing her photo?

In Cases of Arrest and Criminal Activity

“In cases where someone is arrested, and the animal is home and no one is taking care of it, LHS Animal Control will take it in.

The level of care provided in this scenario is similar to protective custody. If someone gets arrested for whatever reason, LHS will hold onto the animal for five days, however, fees for animal care are not waived. “Once a person is out of jail they can come get the animal, or approve of someone who can pick up the animal while they are incarcerated,” says Porter. Porter also mentioned that if the pet owner can arrange for someone quickly, the animal can bypass the shelter and go into the trusted care of friends or family.

However, if someone is arrested for drunk driving with an animal in the vehicle, they can be charged with improper treatment of the animal.

In extreme cases like a meth house where dogs are posted outside to help protect the drugs or warn for foot traffic, LHS Animal Control will take in the animals to ensure they don’t harm themselves or others. Animals undergo vet care and a temperament checkup to determine their level of health and safety. “Owners may be charged with animal endangerment based on how they are housed. If inside the house and exposed to drugs, waste, chemicals, poor conditions, owners may be charged with improper treatment of animals,” says Porter.

“LHS is very careful to make sure they are not going to put an animal back into a bad situation, so they investigate and follow up with welfare checks, making sure it’s a habitable environment. There are times when someone is arrested and in jail for a long time with no alternative housing options for the pet so LHS will try to get the animal a good home, after a pet eval for health, temperament and behavior. If it passes, the animal will be neutered and placed up for adoption” says Porter.

Hoarding situations fall into this category. LHS also coordinates with other local organizations like Colorado Reptile Humane Society or Fort Collins Cat Rescue Spay and Neuter Clinic in hoarding cases,  for example, to make sure happy, healthy animals are adopted out to loving homes.

If you’ve had a personal experience or know someone who has received help from a non-profit organization in time of crisis, or adopted an animal that was part of a crisis situation, I would love to hear from you!

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