The dogs were barking and the cats were playing – a sure sign that things were back to normal on Tuesday afternoon at the RSPCA shelter in William Street.
Most of the 240 dogs, cats, sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs evacuated when fire destroyed about 130 wrecked cars in an adjacent yard on Saturday have been returned home.
It was a massive job for shelter manager Marissa Clifford and her team.
Ms Clifford said the animals had been housed at four veterinary clinics and about six private homes around Orange for two days.
The RSPCA vans began rounding them all up from 7am on Tuesday morning and returning them to William Street.
Ms Clifford said the shelter needed a thorough clean after suffering smoke damage from the blaze.
“We’ve had a professional cleaner in to clean out the soot,” she said.
“It was worst in the kennels in the first row that were closest to the fire.”
Ms Clifford said they started by moving dogs and cats from the Orange Pet Hospital, the Canobolas Family Pet Hospital, the Blayney veterinary hospital and the Mulberry Lane Veterinary Clinic where they had been housed.
“We’ve got a lot of cats out of foster care today.
“The majority of the dogs will be back today if not they will be back tomorrow.”
She thanked all the community who had pulled together to provide housing, cages and kennels for the animals and veterinary care over the past few days.
“We’ve had a lot of people bringing in holding cages for them.
“Pet Barn have sent down a lot of cages for them to be housed in while they [private carers] looked after them for that time,” she said.
“Everybody’s help has been fantastic.”
Ms Clifford said the ordeal had also been difficult for the animals – many of which have already had a difficult start to life.
She said they would be pleased to be back in their normal environment.
“Especially in the heat of everything that was going on. The animals probably knew about the fire before we did.
“That’s why we’re here. It’s for the animals.
“They mostly can’t help the situations they can get into and we are happy that we are able to help them.”
The shelter will re-open this week.