Pacific Gas and Electric Company

10/04/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/04/2023 20:30

Meow from Maui: PG&E Coworker Spends Her Vacation Saving Cats Affected by the Wildfires

Before Chrissie Klinkowski (front row, center) joined PG&E as a senior terrestrial biologist, two of the jobs she held were as a veterinary assistant and as a wildlife biologist in Florida trapping and tracking bobcats to identify wildlife corridors.

Klinkowski used these work experiences recently when volunteering to help small non-profits in Maui following the August wildfires to trap and reunite cats separated from their owners. Klinkowski spent seven days of her vacation working with ASSERT, an organization specializing in disaster animal rescue. ASSERT supported the efforts of local groups, including Surf Cat Ranch and Save Maui Cats.

During her seven days (averaging 12- to 18-hour workdays) with ASSERT, Klinkowski and her team trapped 22 cats from the burn zone.

Klinkowski and her fellow volunteers faced many challenges in trapping cats.

"We had extensive restrictions regarding where we could place traps and where we could take trapped cats because most of the shelters and rescues were full of animals," she said.

Klinkowski and her fellow volunteers could only set traps for 2-4 hours per day at night when the weather was cooler and due to a 10 p.m. curfew within the burned area of Lahaina. When they couldn't set traps, they helped Save Maui Cats replenish community cat feeding stations.

Four of the 22 trapped cats were reunited with their owners, two are in long-term foster care waiting until their owners can bring them to a new home, two are chipped and local rescues are trying to reach their owners and four were relinquished by their owners and are in foster care. The remainder of the cats were feral and are being evaluated to see if they can adjust to domestic life and a new home.

"One of the animals we trapped was a 12-week-old kitten who had burned whiskers, singed fur and a burn mark on his forehead," said Klinkowski. "We named him Phoenix (according to Greek mythology, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes). Fortunately, Phoenix is settling into his new permanent home."

Trapping cats wasn't the only thing Klinkowski did while in Lahaina.

"I successfully held 48 cats so they could have their blood drawn by a veterinary technician at Surf Cat Ranch to do health checks," said Klinkowski, who knows even domestic cats can get very skittish when being held for medical procedures. "I also helped give a bath to one of the cats we trapped to get the toxic ashes off of him."

But the story doesn't end there. Due to the limited space, Klinkowski said five cats who had been at Surf Cat Ranch waiting to be adopted before the fires were transported to the mainland, which created space for five burn zone cats. These felines are ready for adoption at Santa Cruz SPCA and at Kitten Kohrner Rescue in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

PG&E helped ASSERT's efforts with a donation of personal protective equipment. ASSERT brought $10,000 of physical donations (such as kennels, litter boxes and beds) for the smaller animal rescue groups who were leading the efforts on Maui. One of the rescue partners, Spoofdawg to the Rescue, secured a $5,000 grant from Home Depot which allowed ASSERT to build four enclosures at Surf Cat Ranch.

Klinkowski said this experience emphasizes the importance of microchipping your cat or dog.

"Animals can look and act differently after a traumatic event," she said. "Sometimes, a microchip is the only way an animal can be readily identified after a tragedy."

But implanting the microchip is just part of the process. "The chip isn't automatically registered to your name and phone number unless you manually do it," added Klinkowski. "When you're preparing for an emergency, make sure to check and update your pet's microchip information. There are many free services that will help such as Free Pet Chip Registry and 24 Pet Watch.

"By keeping the contact information current," she concluded, "if there's an emergency and you're separated from your animals, you'll have the best chance of getting your pet back."