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More than 75 animals rescued from Bellingham fire. A big snake remains missing

Here’s how Whatcom Humane Society is helping Hohl’s animals

The Whatcom Humane Society is sheltering 78 animals, ranging from gerbils to a tarantula, that were rescued from the Hohl Seed & Feed fire Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. The animals are available for adoption from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
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The Whatcom Humane Society is sheltering 78 animals, ranging from gerbils to a tarantula, that were rescued from the Hohl Seed & Feed fire Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. The animals are available for adoption from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

The Whatcom Humane Society is caring for 78 animals that were rescued as Hohl Feed & Seed burned early Monday in the downtown, but some birds and one python remain missing.

“WHS received rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, domestic rats, birds and a tarantula,” Laura Clark, its executive director, told The Bellingham Herald on Tuesday. “The store managers have since picked up the birds.”

Clark said the animals were fine and seemed to be in “good physical and mental condition.”

They are not available for adoption.

“The animals are being held in protective custody until the management at Hohl Feed can decide how they want to proceed,” Clark said in an email interview.

Fire crews responded to the fire on the 1300 block of Railroad Avenue at 4:20 a.m. Monday.

They found the back of the building, which faces an alley, in flames. Crews managed to save some of the animals from the store, which was destroyed by the fire.

Hohl Feed & Seed on the 1300 block of Railroad Avenue in Bellingham was destroyed by a two-alarm fire. According to Bellingham Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Hewett, crews responded to the blaze at 4:20 a.m.

Clark said the Whatcom Humane Society was notified by 911 early Monday morning and told to go to the historic downtown store to help with the animals.

“WHS animal control officers arrived on scene and loaded several cages and aquariums filled with animals and immediately transported them back to the Whatcom Humane Society, where our animal care staff was waiting to provide care,” she said.

“Each animal was given an examination, and placed in a clean enclosure with fresh bedding, food and water,” Clark said.

Missing snake

Hohl’s Facebook page thanked firefighters for rescuing the animals.

“It is an absolute blessing that the majority of them are alive thanks to their rescue efforts,” the Facebook post said.

The store also thanked the Whatcom Humane Society and some Hohl’s employees for caring for the rescued animals.

“It is such a relief to know they are all being well cared for. We are astounded by the outpouring of concern, well wishes and offers of help from our community today!” Hohl said in its Facebook post.

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A gerbil takes a break from running on an exercise wheel inside the multipurpose room at the Whatcom Humane Society in Bellingham, Wash., on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The gerbil, along with 77 other animals, are being held in protective custody at the Whatcom Humane Society as a result of the Hohl Feed & Seed fire early Monday morning. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

It mentioned animals that were missing and the community’s questions about them.

“They were, and still are, our No. 1 concern as well,” the Hohl Facebook post said. “We are grateful to report that almost all of the animals have been accounted for, alive and well — with the exception of one missing ball python and the unknown fate of several parakeets and finches at this time.”

Ball pythons grow to an average of 4 to 5 feet, and can be as long as 6 feet.

Animal care

On Tuesday afternoon, Clark talked about the animals as many of them slept — most of them were nocturnal, she said — in Whatcom Humane Society’s multi-purpose room in Bellingham.

In one glass tank, 28 juvenile domestic mice slept, some nestled into balls and others on top of each other. In another sat the Honduran curly hair tarantula near a glass case that contained two rats, one of them a female that was keeping a wary eye on its 12 babies.

“It’s not everyday that you get a tarantula that’s a survivor of a fire,” Clark said.

In another tank, three gerbils hung out together in a bowl or took turns running in a wheel. On the floor, three rabbits rested or nibbled on lettuce in their own cages.

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Three hamsters sleep in their enclosure inside the multipurpose room at the Whatcom Humane Society in Bellingham, Wash., on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Seventy-eight animals are being held in protective custody at the Whatcom Humane Society as a result of the Hohl Feed & Seed fire early Monday morning. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

It was a different story early Monday morning when they were first brought to the Whatcom Humane Society from the fire.

“The animals clearly were all traumatized,” Clark said.

Staff and volunteers cleaned the animals, and gave them fresh water and fresh food as they worked to remove the stench of smoke hanging on the animals, according to Clark.

She praised firefighters for risking their own safety to save the animals, staff and volunteers for caring for them, and the community for inquiring about their safety.

“It’s been great. Everybody’s so concerned,” Clark said.

People who want to know how they can help the animals that were rescued and are being cared for at the Whatcom Humane Society can go online to whatcomhumane.org.

Clark said the organization has the bedding, food and other supplies needed to care for the animals. That’s because Healthy Pet in Ferndale had just, coincidentally, donated bedding and food for small animals prior to the fire.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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