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Earthquakes and animals

July 29, 2008 |  7:41 pm

Across Southern California, the 5.4 earthquake rattled furry nerves and ruffled feathers--literally.

"My birds felt it first," reported one reader. "They were all fluffy and upset a few seconds before it happened."

In Chino Hills, the epicenter of the quake, Alissa Sissung's 10-year-old daughter, Delaney, was spending the day at a horse camp not far from her home. Just before the ground began to quiver, her daughter watched the horses and dogs stir nervously, Sissung told Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske.

Another reader e-mailed: "I was feeding my horse when all of a sudden, he took off running. Seconds later is when the earthquake hit."

And word filtered in to us from Garden Grove about a greyhound at a rescue shelter who  rarely gets up, but who suddenly stood up and looked around, to the surprise of the humans there. Then the earthquake hit.

Whether they really could sense the earthquake a'coming--as fabled--or were as jolted into surprise as their people, the area's animals seem to have withstood the temblor as well as humans did.

Although, like people, they did their share of freaking out. "My cats went running through the room scared to death," Michael Gelfond, an attorney working out of his Beverlywood home office, told Times reporter Tami Abdollah.

Elizabeth Gonzales suffered one of the day's few quake-related injuries--a dog bite. The veterinarian was examining a mixed-breed terrier when the walls of Chino Hills Small Animal Hospital began to rattle. The frightened dog promptly sunk its teeth into Gonzales' hand.

"They are pretty deep punctures," Gozales told L.A. Times reporter Paul Pringle. But "he's always been a good doggie."

Gonzales says that reaction is not unusual. Dogs, cats, and other animals often become terrified when the ground moves. "They don't know what's going on," she said. "They don't feel secure in their surroundings." Gonzales advises keeping dogs and cats away from windows during and immediately after a quake, lest they jump out in panic. "Their first instinct is, 'Where can I go hide?'"

The Los Angeles county shelter system reported that all its animals and buildings weathered the quake just fine.  Same report from the Los Angeles city shelters. "No damage," said L.A. Animal Services general manager Ed Boks.  "And, no, the animals did not give us any warning of the earthquake--like they're supposed to," he deadpanned.

Even in Pomona, just seven miles from the epicenter, the Inland Valley Humane Society survived undamaged, and the animals were well, according to Jim Edward, operations manager of the shelter. "You hear so many stories about how they're intuitive and seem to know it's coming,"  Edward said. "No. It was just another day for them. Maybe it's the soft music we play in the kennels."

--Carla Hall

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