North Valley Animal Disaster Group History

When was the group started?

The North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) was started in the summer of 2002.

As of September 14th, 2004, North Valley Animal Disaster Group was affiliated with Butte County Public Health Department by resolution no. 04-173 of the Butte County Board of Supervisors.

NVADG operates under its Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Standard Operating Guidelines.

Why was the group started?

The group evolved from three specific needs that face the North Valley area. Because the Red Cross’s Charter does not allow them to officially become involved with animal sheltering and evacuation this presented a problem. During the recent disasters, Emergency Services providers have found that the human-animal bond is so strong that some people will not evacuate if they can’t bring their animals with them. Unfortunately, this has proved to have fatal results in Butte County. After the devastating Marysville Flood in 1997, The California Board of Governors directed the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to set up an Animal Disaster Plan in each county in California. Butte County’s Emergency Services began to draft a Guide to Disaster preparedness and enlisted the NVADG to complete this task.

What is the main purpose of the Group?

The mission of the group is two-fold: To work together with public and private agencies in the North Valley by including the evacuation and sheltering of animals during a disaster.

To educate the public to take responsibility for their animals by including them as part of the family disaster plan.

The North Valley Animal Disaster Group is not a government funded agency. There are no paid employees. The Board of Directors volunteer their time to carry out NVADG’s mission. There is no permanent animal shelter. Apart from the Community Outreach program, when volunteer services of NVADG are utilized by Butte County Public Health Department Animal Control, the group is authorized under the following conditions: Evacuation of animals impacted by wildfire, floods, hazardous materials incidents and declared disasters. Animal seizures due to abuse, neglect or other issues. Neighborhood evacuations or evacuations of specific county areas that may leave animals unattended or in need of emergency assistance. Basically, NVADG may be activated on any incident that requires evacuation of citizens from their homes, or road closures that would leave animals stranded without care and feeding.

Who are the "co-operating" groups?

Depending upon the type of disaster and need, North Valley Animal Disaster Group works with numerous local and regional allied agencies in the county and with cities and towns involved in incidents.

The longevity of the summer of 2008 incidents created a shortage of volunteers. Without these mutual aid resources, it would have been impossible.

UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team
Many local Veterinarians
Noah’s Wish
United Animal Nations
Humane Society of the United States
City of Sacramento Animal Care Services
Sacramento County Animal Care
El Dorado & Placer County Animal Services
California Animal Response Emergency System (CARES)
California Veterinary Medical Association
California Department of Food and Agriculture
California Conservation Corps

Within only one year of their beginning NVADG grew from a small, determine group of individuals to an established, well respected organization with motivated, well-trained volunteers. Not only did they participate in training exercises, there were called upon for local as well as national emergencies and began to participate in extensive outreach to agencies they hoped to be working with in the future. The group initiated a 24-hour Hotline (530-895-0000), obtained a new storage trailer and began to assemble equipment.

Volunteers attended state wide meetings and seminars and workshops, often giving talks on "How to Set Up an Animal Disaster Group in Your Community. The Animal Incident Command System Matrix that was developed locally has become a model to other agencies and communities. A website has provided access to North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

What makes up the membership of the group?

NVADG has been very fortunate in our volunteer recruitment, which includes Veterinarians, Registered Veterinary Technicians, Nurses, Firefighters, Search and Rescue Personnel, Animal Trainers, Animal Control Officers and many dedicated lay people, who may work full time and/or are retired.

How many volunteers are there?

Currently, there are close to 200 members, who have taken the required basic professional training and have been certified by Butte County. Intermediate and Advanced Training is held yearly on an ongoing basis in conjunction with local emergency command services personnel and qualified specialists. Training involving Basic Incident Shelter Operation, Radio Awareness, Fire Line Safety, Swift Water Training, Large Animal Handling, Animal First Aid, Media Relations, Stress Management, as well as numerous other specialties. Volunteers are expected to continue their training on a yearly basis to ensure their safety as well as increasing their skill levels.

NVADG has participated in the Butte County Multi-Agency Urban-Interface Drills and have held weekend disaster training scenarios. All of the volunteers who will be working in the evacuation area participate in training. Since the recent fires, NVADG training has been modified in various areas to upgrade the logistics of future incidents.

What are NVADG volunteers involved in during the entire year?

Since the beginning, Community Outreach has been an important part of NVADG year round activities, which meets the educational component of our mission statement. Under the direction of the Community Outreach Coordinator, many volunteers assist in community events, prepare brochures and educational materials, set up displays and make presentations about disaster planning for animals to community groups. NVADG has developed power point presentations, which can be adapted, as needed, to specific audiences.

After the summer fires of 2008, supplies and equipment were put into storage. With the recent move to a larger storage area, man volunteers have spent hours moving, sorting and inventorying every piece of equipment that the group owns. In the future, it will be much easier to facilitate sheltering and evacuation during incidents.

Annually, there are approximately twenty-five Community Outreach Events each year, including Volunteer Fairs, Disaster Preparedness and Wildland Fire Safety Seminars, Canine Carnivals, Health and Safety Fairs, Microchip Events, Holiday Pet Photos, Spaghetti Feed Fundraiser, Equestrian Events, Ice Cream Socials, a Concert Event, and Highway Clean Up Day. Hundreds of people in the community received materials and information to assist them in preparing for of their own animals during a disaster situation. Outreach programs continue to involve many volunteers.

After years of training and practice, the group had been activated for only a few incidents. Volunteers were activated to evacuate animals and implement an emergency animal shelter during the Butte County Oregon Gulch Fire incident. Several volunteers have assisted in national and state disaster situations.

In June and July of 2008 (June 10th), NVADG was faced with their ultimate test when they were called to go behind the firelines and evacuate animals and also to establish numerous temporary shelters, starting the Ophir Fire. During the Humboldt and Butte Lightning Complex Fires, over 2800 dogs, cats, birds, horses, and farm animals, large and small were serviced, encountering the worst fire conditions in Butte County history. Never before had Butte County experienced a problem of this magnitude in rural areas, affecting so many people and animals.

The Search and Rescue facility, in Chico, was the first shelter to open for the Humboldt Fire. Large animals were kept at the CSU, Chico Farm during the duration of the entire fire alert period. The Butte Lightning Complex Fires, Part 1 and 2, brought into use the Neighborhood Church in Chico as animal shelter and both Spring Valley School and Las Plumas High School served as both Red Cross and Animal Shelters. Suddenly we were in the middle of the first "Pet Friendly" shelters in the history of Butte County. It offered some challenges, but issues were resolved in a timely manner.

Working with Animal Control, NVADG evacuation teams, using their own trucks and trailers, round the clock, brought animals into shelters from the fire zones and later returned to feed, water and assist the needs of stranded animals.

Over 100 NVADG volunteers were involved in shelter and evacuation services.

How does this group operate financially?

NVADG has 501(c) 3 status as a non-profit organization that relies on the generosity of the community and on grants, such as a Homeland Security grant. NVADG has been able to purchase and equip its state of the art trailer with kennels and animal care equipment and other evacuation and sheltering supplies. Donations from Mooretown Rancheria, and recently from Discovery Shoppe have made it possible to purchase new two-way communication radios that have allowed the group to communicate with our evacuation teams as well with law enforcement and other responders to incidents.

Following the summer fires, outstanding community support on the Ridge at a Spaghetti Feed Fundraiser made it possible to purchase a second trailer which will be used as a Livestock Equipment Unit. Stocked especially for large animal assistance, the trailer can be used in evacuation and also set up at a shelter where large animals will be sheltered.

Special project donations and paw and trailer sponsors continue to make it possible purchase much needed supplies and equipment.

NVADG in the News

One of the greatest honors bestowed upon our group in 2003 was the awarding of the Firefighter of the Year Award to Coordinator John Maretti, from the City of Chico Fire Department, and Assistant Coordinator, Mary Ann Aldrich, from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Publicity from the Chico News & Review helped spread our message, which helped immensely to bring our organization into the eye of the community.

In May, 2008, NVADG board member Lezlie Morrow was one of twelve Chico heroes named by the American Red Cross Three Rivers Chapter. She received their Sprit of the American Red Cross award for exceptional volunteerism with animal rescue and community services. Lezlie passed away in August, 2008 and will be remembered for her efforts on behalf of NVADG.

In April, 2009, NVADG received the Mayor’s award for their commitment to community service.

Note: This report has been compiled by Marygrace Colby, NVADG Historian, from information provided NVADG members, especially Sandy Doolittle, Director and Information Officer and John Maretti, President.

During Emergency

If this is an emergency, please call our hotline at 530-895-0000.  Emails are not monitored regularly when we are busy working active evacuations.

Contact Info


If this is an emergency, please call our hotline at 530-895-0000.  Emails are not monitored regularly when we are busy working active evacuations.

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Mailing Address

PO Box 441
Chico, CA 95927-0441 USA


(530) 895-0000