Tornado and fire evacuations have been discussed every year for the past 11 years at Indian Hills Animal Clinic but never rehearsed, according to veterinarian Sarah Neisius, owner of the clinic at 1448 N. Maize Road.
So when one of her employees spotted smoke coming in from the vent inside the daycare gymnasium Thursday morning, she wasn’t sure how they would respond.
One worker shut the garage door, so the dogs that were outside in the play area couldn’t come back inside.
Other employees formed an assembly line, where some workers grabbed and opened dog kennels, others gathered the dogs from their baths and play areas, and others brought them outside and hooked them to the fence in the yard. They grabbed the carriers of the handful of cats that were boarding at the clinic.
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The dogs were barking everywhere, as they stood only six feet away from dogs they hadn’t seen, and as a group of firefighters they didn’t know climbed around on the roof.
“It was kind of a controlled chaos,” Neisius said. “It worked out really well for us.”
The clinic evacuated nearly 60 animals in under 10 minutes.
If human lives had been in danger, they wouldn’t have been able to help, Neisius said, but because it was just smoke (from what turned out to be a malfunctioning air conditioner), they were able to get all the animals out.
By coincidence the clinic had its monthly staff meeting on Thursday, during which they digested what happened. Every animal in the facility, except one dog that was taking a bath, had on a special ID band that goes around the neck, in case they were to slip their collars in the chaos.
“Honestly what we learned the most was that our planning and talking about it worked out just fine,” Neisius said. “Everybody knew what to do. There was no hesitation, no panic. We talked about it and did it.”
About 30 minutes after the many fire engines showed up, some of the pets’ owners who had no idea what had happened showed up at the clinic.
The clinic put out a message on its Facebook page. “Well, this wasn’t the morning we expected,” Neisius wrote, “but it’s what we got!”