The Anchorage Fire Department was awarded the "Compassionate Fire Department Award" by the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after saving the lives of 10 pets from an apartment fire on Government Hill, January 10.
The fire department said its top priority is saving human lives, but they do rescue animals when they can.
"Our top concern is [human] life safety," said AFD engineer Patrick O'Shea, "The first thing we do when we get on scene is to go search the structure and make sure nobody is in it and if while searching we do find pets we will grab them and bring them out.”
AFD said all firefighters are trained to use specially designed resuscitation masks for small animals. PETA will be sending the AFD additional resuscitation masks.
Anchorage Animal Care and Control assists AFD at fires and other emergencies involving animals. The center said it has six specially trained officers who work closely with firefighters or police when animals are involved.
“A really important reminder for the public that disaster preparedness isn't just for you and your children, but also for your pet. You need to be planning what you would do with them should a disaster occur," said Brooke Taylor with Anchorage Animal Care and Control.
Taylor said there are steps you can take to become better prepared for a disaster.
“We talk about training. If your dog is well trained then they are going to be more likely to listen to you in a high tense difficult situation,” said Taylor.
For cats, carrier training can be helpful in an emergency situation.
“If you train your cat that their carrier a safe space, then, not only is it easier to take them to the vet, but in a disaster that's probably where they're going to run and hide, which is what cats most often do in a disaster situation,” said Taylor.
Taylor also recommends keeping a supply of pet food, water and an extra animal harness or leash in your disaster kit. If you call 911 for an emergency and have a protective animal, both AFD and Anchorage Animal Care and Control advise you put the animal away so it doesn't prevent responders from helping.
“We do get calls throughout the year because we need to take charge of an animal and it's not necessarily because they're dangerous, they could just be very, very scared,” said Taylor.
Animal Care and Control will also temporarily house an animal while victims look for alternative housing. For more information about animal safety visit the Anchorage Animal Care and Control website.
Contact Mallory Peebles