PETA Wants Wildfire Animal Abandoners Charged With Crime

Prosecution—and a Lifelong Ban on Keeping Animals—Sought for Anyone Found Knowingly Failing to Plan for Known Danger, Leaving Animals to Die

For Immediate Release:
August 27, 2020

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Fresno County, Calif.

Good Samaritans have scrambled to rescue many more than 1,000 animals—from horses, pigs, and goats to dogs and guinea pigs—left behind in Fresno County by humans fleeing wildfires that were clearly a present or approaching danger. That’s why PETA sent an urgent letter today to Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp asking her to press cruelty-to-animals charges against any people who failed to make safety or evacuation arrangements for animals they were harboring in a known fire risk area or who were notified of an approaching fire yet left animals to burn to death.

PETA further asks that anyone convicted be prohibited from having the charge or possession of any animal in the future.

“When people look out for only themselves even though they have taken on the responsibility of caring for animals and have failed to plan for or evacuate them, they need to pay a price,” says PETA Emergency Response Manager Kristin Rickman. “No one who dooms an animal to die amid smoke and flames should ever be trusted with an animal’s care or life again.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Smittcamp follows.

August 27, 2020

The Honorable Lisa A. Smittcamp

District Attorney of Fresno County

Dear Ms. Smittcamp,

Greetings from PETA.

We’re writing today to beseech your office to ensure that Fresno County residents who fall drastically short of meeting the most fundamental duties of animal custodianship while wildfires devastate the region be held duly accountable as per CA § 597(b), which states, “[W]hoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering … or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather … is, for each offense, guilty of a crime.” Unfortunately, as has been repeatedly observed in natural disaster scenarios, many individuals with ample forewarning (or who can be assumed to understand that their areas are prone to life-threatening natural events) will take flight without having made necessary arrangements for their own animals, essentially abandoning them to endure horrific fates while helplessly confined or otherwise unable to escape. Such is evidently the case in Fresno County, where good Samaritans like Clovis resident Blake Cadigan and his team have reportedly scrambled to rescue more than 1,000 animals thus far who would otherwise have been doomed to die amid smoke and flames after their irresponsible owners evacuated with only their own safety in mind.

On behalf of our more than 625,000 members in California, we respectfully request that any person who leaves an animal to suffer or die—particularly after having received sufficient notice of impending adverse conditions—be charged with cruelty to animals and, if convicted, receive the maximum sentence, including prohibition from animal custodianship for life.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.


Kristin Rickman

Emergency Response Division Manager

Cruelty Investigations Department

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