Saturday, February 26, 2011


One evening, about a year ago, we received a phone call from the fire department.  A pet store was on fire, and they needed help transporting the evacuated animals.  Two of my assistants jumped in their vehicles and raced to help.  Fifteen minutes later, ambulances and trucks filled to the brim with caged animals started to arrive at the clinic.

It was a sight unlike anything I ever anticipated; cages full of mice and rats (who were giving birth due to the stress of the experience), to a Gila monster (a poisonous reptile), a wallaby, African Grey parrots, budgies, cockatiels, snakes, ferrets, rabbits, a few puppies, desert tortoises, two cats, lizards, leopard geckos, chinchillas, and even a tarantula or two.  The number of animals (including the mice) clearly exceeded any reasonable expectations for one human to be able to evaluate and treat. We estimated approximately 300 animals were brought to our hospital, with about 100 of those being mice and rats.

Special attention was given to the birds, who are as a species, very sensitive to the effects of smoke inhalation.  All of our available oxygen outlets were utilized.  Animals in their cages filled our lobby, all of our exam rooms, spilled into the treatment areas, and the smell of smoke overtook our clinic. That overnight felt like one of the longest of my career, and dawn was a welcome sight.  The pet-shop owner came by to thank us for our assistance in their time of need, and began to move the animals from our hospital to foster homes.

It was later determined that the cause of the fire was a faulty heating pad at the pet store.  Due to the quick actions of the firefighters and my staff, a majority of animals were rescued and survived. 


  1. Ugh, I would have cried if I'd seen parrots in distress. The last 2 times I've treated exotic emergencies - they have been horrifying. One was an AG with severe hypoglycemia and possibly sepsis. I was able to get an IO cath in him and start treating him, but his condition cont'd to deteriorate. It broke my heart.

    The last one was a cockatoo that was bitten on the head by a huge dog and had a freely moveable skull fragment under his skin. I tried for him - IO cath, mannitol, oxygen, Valium for his seizures, but he died.

    Birds can be so unrewarding to treat.

    (P.S. I realize that post was not about that....kudos to you for handling such a huge emergency!)

  2. Oh and PS...I see some of my followers have migrated over to you!

  3. Yes HP a few have migrated. Excellent blog, keep up the good work!

  4. HP; I definitely agree. Birds are frustrating to treat -- on this particular night, I didn't have time to be frustrated because just sorting and evaluating the number of animals and the true meaning of triage were in full effect!