Pets left behind as their owners fled wildfires in eastern Manitoba continue to be flown to the safety of Winnipeg, but some of the focus now shifts to reuniting others with their owners.

As of last week, the Manitoba Animal Alliance says it had rescued two budgies, 97 dogs and cats, and a wild bat from evacuation zones.

“We’ve had three trips now where we’ve been able to rescue animals from those zones. Sunday we have a float plane, we’re going up to get the last — we think — remaining eight dogs out of Pauingassi,” says clinic coordinator Melanie Chudyk.

“Then our goal right now is we’re trying to get all the animals we have in care vetted.”

The care the animals are receiving, such as tick prevention, vaccinations, and spay and neutering as needed, is mostly made possible through volunteers and donations.

“We’re very fortunate, we’re owned by VetStrategy … based out of Canada; they own over 260 clinics across all of Canada, so we’re very fortunate to have that backing and that financial to be able to help rescues like this and all the spay and neuters and vaccines that we provide, so it’s awesome,” says Hannah Burnett, with Centennial Animal Hospital in Winnipeg.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help the rescue and provide for the animals that need help.”

Chudyk says most people involved in the rescues are dog owners themselves, and have been eager to help.

“You could imagine any small town in Manitoba how just heartbreaking it is knowing as a pet owner that 300 people had to be removed from the community and all their animals were left behind with no one to take care of them,” Chudyk says.

Simultaneously, the group is working to track down each animal’s owner and reunite them.

“As soon as we bring in an animal, we photograph it, we post it to our Facebook group, our managing director contacts the leadership for the community letting them know how many dogs we brought in, approximately what they look like, the number of animals, ages, and then they forward that information to their community members,” Chudyk says.

She adds it’s helpful if people have photos of their pets since multiple people have attempted to claim the same animal in a few instances.

For now, the groups are busy trying to find long-term fosters for many of the animals, since it’s still uncertain when many people will be allowed to return home.

“We’re going to need fosters who are willing to have a dog stay with them for a month, two months, three months, until those people who live in those communities can return,” she says.

“(And) we can always use help with volunteers to help drive animals to and from veterinary appointments, collect supplies, and we can always use funds to help pay for freight.”

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