Clark County Animal Shelter aids in Estill shelter evacuations

Published 12:12 pm Thursday, November 17, 2022

Kentuckians often say that they take care of their own, yet the sentiment extends beyond humans to pets.

In the wake of the wildfires in Estill County last week, the Clark County Animal Shelter rescued pets from their local animal shelter, finding them a place to be relocated and providing others in the area with time to meet their needs.

“When they figured out that they might be in some trouble, we were one of their first calls,” said Addie Wills, the Director of Clark County Animal Shelter. “They were concerned that with where things were as far as the fire, it was moving in the direction of the animal shelter.”

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Although the Clark County Animal Shelter is closed to the public after 4 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, they answered an emergency call around 8 p.m.

With little of a set plan, Wills and a group of volunteers were eager to respond.

They gathered crates and other supplies before making the approximately 40-minute drive to Estill County during the evening.

As one could imagine, what they encountered when arriving between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. was a mixture of controlled and uncontrolled chaos.

“At that point, it looked like…depending on what the weather did…could go one way or the other”, Wills said. “We opted to go ahead and move the animals out of the shelter because in a 12-hour window, we could’ve been looking at two very different circumstances.”

While one potential circumstance would be the containment of the fire, another would be the fires approaching and encircling the shelter.

Much depended on a second fire burning in the not-so-far distance.

“Right across the road from the shelter but still probably a couple miles away was a second fire that was burning,” Wills said. “That was the one we were really concerned about. There was a lot of first responder personnel that was around, but none that were really interacting with us other than at roadblocks and stuff like that.”

By taking action, the team responded to the needs of 27 animals – 16 cats and 11 dogs.

Many of them were initially moved to the Clark County Animal Shelter.

However, the shelter is not equipped with the room or resources to handle all 27 long-term.

“Typically, animal shelters or any shelter that provides animal-control services only takes animals from their own county, so this was a really unique situation,” Wills said. “The goal was always temporary housing, make sure they’re in a safe place, and then moving them out.”

Fortunately, several non-profit organizations and private rescue groups from different counties stepped in to help ease any burdens over the next 24 hours.

Paws 4 the Cause, and the Scott County Humane Society were among them. Estill County Fish and Wildlife Service even reached out after hearing about the organization’s predicament through social media.

“It was very much worth it to get those animals out, and then they were at a safe place,” Wills added. “The staff at Estill County could really focus on serving their community and those people that were being displaced…[and] be able to focus on those animals versus worrying about what was going on back at the shelter facility.”

Fresh supplies were left at the Estill County Animal Shelter too.

The Clark County Animal Shelter has had a longstanding relationship with the Estill County Animal Shelter, as they’ve discussed effective business practices and more.

However, this was an unforeseen scenario.

Wills emphasizes that preparing for the unexpected is necessary.

“It’s really important that every facility have an emergency plan in place,” she said. “Whether it’s responding to a flood, or a tornado, or a fire, there should be an alternative plan as to ‘this is what we need to do in the event that this happens.”