Monchique launches pioneer program to save domestic animals from fires

What happens to dogs, cats, poultry, in the event of a fire that puts them at risk […]

dogWhat happens to dogs, cats, poultry, in the event of a fire that puts their owners' homes at risk? Many of these domestic animals are set free when the flames approach, in the conviction that they will save themselves by their own means, but the truth is that well over half of them end up dying.

That's why the Monchique City Council has launched a pioneering program called “Animal Seguro”, with measures to protect animals in case of fire.

In the recent fires that ended up destroying more than 2000 hectares in the Serra de Monchique, in the first week of September, the program has already been «in operation and gave good results», revealed Rui André, Mayor of Monchique, to the Sul Informação.

The municipal veterinarian of Monchique explains that this program in the Algarve, a pioneer in the country, is based "on the program developed in the United States after Hurricane Katrina."

"According to 2010 data, about 80 to 90% of animals not evacuated by their guardians in the event of a disaster end up dying," he adds. And when we talk about domestic animals, we are talking about those that are intended for companionship, guarding and even production (chickens, pigs, cows, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits).

The objective is, stressed the veterinarian Ana Silva, "that the families have a protection and evacuation plan in which the elements with four legs [or two wings] are also included".

In Portugal, he explained, “a program of this kind exists only as a master's thesis at the Municipality of Lisbon, but it has never been applied in practice. We are the first, here in Monchique».

All the rules and procedures to be followed to protect animals are contained in a small 24-page manual, which has been distributed by the Municipality and will soon be available for download on its website, in PDF.

The protection measures are different depending on the characteristics and the number of animals to be protected, whether they are companion animals or farm animals.

safe animal
Sticker to be placed on the window of the house

Some of the rules are basic: the young municipal veterinarian explains that, because «animals are very disoriented by fire», their owners who live in risk areas must always have a leash or a transport box at hand. And those who have dangerous animals at home – such as snakes, spiders – should also remember them when leaving.

A sticker or small poster should also be placed on a window in the house that indicates which animals are present in that house…and even if any of them are aggressive. That's so rescue teams know exactly what they're going to run into. Furthermore, after they have left the house, taking the animals, the word “Evacuated” must be written on the sticker in large letters.

But it's not just companion or guard animals, mostly dogs and cats, that concern the mentors of this program. Farm animals can also suffer from fires.

«We have the case of some foreign residents who have fantastic facilities for their horses, with air conditioning and everything, on a farm here in the mountains. There is only one problem: all the installations were built in wood, so they are very vulnerable to fire», told Mayor Rui André to Sul Informação. "In this case, it was these people who contacted the City Council, to find out what they had to do to protect themselves."

The mayor also recalls that, in the fires of 2003, when pig farming was still a very strong economic activity in the municipality, “the water sprinklers mounted on the roofs of the facilities saved thousands of pigs”.

Animal Insurance Program Presentation_1
Municipal veterinarian Ana Silva to present the Animal Insurance Program, promoted by CM Monchique

In addition to defining all animal protection measures and disseminating them among the population and civil protection agents, the Municipality of Monchique will also deliver to the local Fire Department "intensive care units and two oxygen masks for animals". In addition, the village corporation already has two firefighters trained in first aid for animals.

On the weekend of September 2nd and 3rd, during the first wave of large fires in the Serra de Monchique, “two cats and three dogs” were rescued under this Animal Insurance Program. One of the dogs belonged to a bedridden person, who was removed from his house as a precaution, but who refused to leave without the animal's company.

"In times of great affliction, solidarity always appears," said veterinarian Ana Silva. “It was nice to have received phone calls saying: there is more space here to accommodate animals, if necessary. We were offered accommodation for 100 chickens, sheep and goats».

Of the measures provided for in the manual prepared by the municipality, there was, however, one animal that was still left out, but which the mayor Rui André promises to include in the future: bees.

“Bees are also production animals, with great economic expression here in the mountains, and hives are always very affected by fires. In the future, we will also try to define conditions and security measures for them». The “cattle of the wind”, as the medieval charters called it, may thus be included in the Animal Insurance Program.

Tested for the first time in the field in the first week of September, President Rui André is keen to point out that, in recent fires, the Animal Insurance Program was applied and «no deaths of any domestic animal in the municipality were registered». “It is enough for people to lose gardens, trees, orchards. We don't want them to lose their animals too».