Canadian team to head to Australia next week to help rescue animals

The thought of suffering animals spurred Brad Pattison of Kelowna, B.C., to organize a group of volunteers from across Canada to fly to Australia to help creatures trapped and fleeing from wildfires.

Pattison, a dog trainer and former host of the TV reality show "At the End of My Leash," will team up with volunteers from Calgary and Kitchener, Ont. to work with local animal rescue agencies.

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"We want to be the ones who help that little soul," he said in a recent interview.

He led animal rescue teams in Haiti after an earthquake in 2010, in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in Calgary after flooding in 2013.

Prof. Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney's school of life and environmental sciences said in a news release Wednesday that the fires have affected more than one billion animals.

Pattison's group has been raising money for medical supplies including ointment and bandages. The team is heading to Australia next week and has made plans for when they arrive.

"One of the working plans is we'll land in Melbourne, then go to Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary that has multiple species of animals that need care," he said.

They then hope to move to different areas where animals need attention.

"The other side to that is there will be animals that will be in the line of danger, so another task that my team goes in with is to retrieve these animals and move them to safety," he said.

One of the team's specialties is retrieving and treating injured animals that have sought shelter in trees, he said.

Pattison said he thinks a majority of animals will be burn victims and the team will have to decide how to best help them.

"Does it need to be euthanized? Does it have a second chance at life? These are the questions and turmoil that we'll be going through."

The team plans on being in Australia for four weeks although that could change, he said.

One of the volunteers, Kelli Boogemans, said even though the animals would "immediately go into survival mode" the fires are too fierce and they need help.

"The extinction of animals that we're facing from these wildfires is mind-boggling," she said. "That's why we're going."

The group has been "mentally preparing" themselves for what they might encounter, Boogemans said.

"We know that even though we've seen these images so far, there is going to be a lot of carnage, devastation, a lot of emotion and it's not going to be easy," she said.

"But we so strongly feel that it's something we need to do and if we can save a handful of animals it was worth it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2020.

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