Local animal activist Hazel Mortensen took a step to protect four-legged or feathered friends by creating a pet and owner emergency information sheet available across the valley for senior citizens and others alike.

A pet advocate, Mortensen created a special information sheet for pet owners to fill out and place on their refrigerators. The bright green form should attract attention. Should anything happen to the owner, another party can easily find the pet information and help any animals left at home.

The form has owner information on it, the pets’ information, any pet medication information and emergency contact information.

Mortensen, who used to volunteer at the Orange County animal shelter before moving to the valley, has witnessed her share of pet tragedies. About six years ago, she suffered a heart aneurysm, but while waiting for paramedics to arrive all she could think about was the welfare of her dog.

“I wasn’t worried about dying; I was just worried about my dog ending up at the shelter,” she said.

She made a fireman promise to take her dog to a friend where the dog would be well cared for.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend told her a story of two people who went to the hospital. One told the hospital staff they had pets at home, and then the staff could make arrangements for the animals. The other person was unable to tell hospital staff they had pets and returned home after their hospital stay to find their animals dead.

“It was just like somebody kicking me in the stomach,” Mortensen said, adding that she knew she had to do something to protect pets and also their owners from this kind of misfortune. She presented the forms to the cities of Buellton and Solvang, which both agreed to display the forms and make them available to visitors.

“It’s an excellent idea, especially for people in the valley that travel frequently,” Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson said. “It’s also for emergency purposes. If someone should take ill suddenly, they’ll at least know their animals are taken care of.”

Richardson said he has three dogs of his own and he worries about their wellbeing should something happen to him while he is away.

The Buellton Senior Center is also participating by sending out the forms in its newsletter. Pam Gnekow, assistant to the executive director, said a lot of seniors do have pets, and the forms will help give them peace of mind.

“One of our seniors had to be taken to the hospital (last month) and her concern was, of course, what was going to happen with her dog,” Gnekow said.

A lot of senior citizens’ pets are older animals themselves, so they could require a lot of care should something happen to their owners, Gnekow said. The senior center will keep the forms on file, and in case any of their seniors fall ill or have to be hospitalized, the center can use the information to help any animals.

Mortensen said she will contact every senior center, every city hall and every humane society in the county and send the forms to her friends throughout California, the United States and England, her native country.

She said it is important that pet owners are choosey about where their animals should go in case of an emergency, so they don’t end up at a shelter with potentially bad conditions and kill practices. She said she thinks it’s a good idea for all pet owners, whatever their age, to have plans for their animal companions.

“You can’t save the world, but every little bit helps,” Mortensen said.

Reach Lauren Crecelius at lcrecelius@syvjournal.com.