Port Hills community pulls together to find homes for animal evacuees

Residents look on as smoke and fire cover the city (Getty)
Residents look on as smoke and fire cover the city (Getty)

A question facing those fleeing the Port Hills fire is what to do with their pets and animals.

While families can stay temporarily on couches or airbeds, it can be a little trickier to accommodate animals like chickens, cats and dogs, let alone llamas and alpacas.

One of those forced to leave her pets behind was Kennedy's Bush Rd resident Kandi Hamilton Francois, who was told there wasn't enough time to evacuate her two alpacas.

"We were told 'I think it's too late to do anything about stock'.

"All I could do was open the gate for them in case the fire got to our property so they might have a chance to run out."

The fire did not reach the residential part of her property, but they are not allowed back in yet, so she just hopes Bentley and Poseidon are all right.

Alpacas Bentley and Poseidon had to be left behind when the area was evacuated (Kandi Hamilton Francois/Supplied)
Alpacas Bentley and Poseidon had to be left behind when the area was evacuated (Kandi Hamilton Francois/Supplied)

The SPCA is helping to co-ordinate temporary homes for animals that have been evacuated.

Some of the accommodation solutions are commercial, while others are offering it free, including private land owners with paddock space for livestock.

People can be reluctant to leave their homes unless they can take their animals with them, so it was important to find a solution, says SPCA Canterbury chief executive Barry Helem.

"They are very much a family member for many families. People have a very strong emotional bond with their pet," he told RadioLIVE.

"It's very important that we not only look after the people, but the animals as well."

Mr Helem says while it's a difficult time for people, it's also stressful for the animals.

"It's important the owners try to keep as calm as possible and try not to show panic or anxiety. Dogs especially are very attuned to the emotions of their owners, and they can act accordingly."

He suggests covering crates with blankets during transportation, and bringing their favourite toys, as dogs like to chew when stressed.

Animal education park Arion Farm is one of the organisations co-ordinating with the SPCA to take in animals. Farm manager Suzie told Newshub there has been massive interest in the park's offer, but they haven't taken any animals in just yet.

"We've had quite a few people with cats and dogs, but they have been referred on. It's better for us if we take things that are hard for other people to take."

The challenge can be catching those hard-to-accommodate animals like llama, alpaca and cattle in the first place. 

One of the catteries offering to take cats and dogs free of charge is Snuggle Inn Cattery in Kaiapoi.

They say to give them a call on 03 327 6454 or to contact them on Facebook.

Katrina's chickens meet the evacuee chooks (Katrina Greenslade/Supplied)
Katrina's chickens meet the evacuee chooks (Katrina Greenslade/Supplied)

Informal arrangements between family and friends are also helping rehome animals.

Katrina Greenslade has taken in friends' animals, including three chickens. Her friends, the Ellwood family, were evacuated from their home in Dyers Pass Rd early on Thursday morning, and while they had a place to stay, their chooks needed a run to go to.

She has three chickens herself, so she took in the newbies. They are being kept apart to avoid squabbles, but are "talking to each other amicably". One of the newcomers has even laid an egg.


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