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Porter Ranch Gas Leak May Be Hurting Pets, Wild Animals Too

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For months, SoCalGas has been warning people who live close to the Porter Ranch gas leak to stay inside and keep all their houses' windows and doors tightly closed to the outside air. People were reportedly falling ill with sicknesses they believed were linked to gas flowing out of the ground as early as November.

But as the full magnitude of the disaster unfolding just north of Los Angeles in Porter Ranch begins to set in, North Valley residents and county officials alike are worried about the gas leak's potential to adversely affect animals wild and domestic.

Debra Zavatto visited her horse at a ranch in Granada Hills and found the animal with a nose-bleed, according to the L.A. Times. She knows nosebleeds are connected to the fumes being belched into the air at the Gas Company's drilling site just north, and wonders if her horse's nosebleed is related.

Another resident lost all 20 of her koi fish in a backyard pond, prompting her to have the same worry, according to the Daily News. In early November, around the same time people began reporting symptoms, Christine Katz noticed a pair of dead fish in her pond, followed by a mass die-off over the next couple of weeks.

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The story repeats for several other residents, who have reported mysterious illnesses and unexplained deaths in their pets as well.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says people should be wary. "Birds and fish may be more sensitive to some chemicals and gases, so (pet) birds should be kept indoors and outdoor fish ponds closely monitored," a Los Angeles County Public Health Department official said in an email Thursday. "Some gases can lead to changes in water pH which can be unhealthy for fish."

The challenge, for officials and residents alike, of determining whether or not the gas leak is negatively affecting animals more than people is made more difficult by how little significant data there is on the matter.

Methane gas, the predominant pollutant pouring out of the ground at the Aliso Canyon facility, isn't particularly harmful to either people or animals. But other (carcinogenic) substances—like benzene, toluene and xylene—can also be present in the leaking gas.

Last week, CBS 2 broke news that SoCalGas had failed to accurately report just how much benzene there is in the leaking gas. Benzene is a known carcinogen in humans, but its effect in animals is less understood.

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For now, the County's Department of Public Health veterinary team is examining sick animals at veterinary hospitals throughout the affected areas, hoping to determine if there is some link between the leaking gas and sick pets. Aside from hospital visits, the team will also be examining and conducting tests on dead birds found in the Porter Ranch area as well.

Of the 2,479 households that have been relocated, approximately 40% of them have pets, according to SoCalGas spokeswoman Anne Silva. Though this also says nothing of the animals still living in the area, or in other surrounding neighborhoods.