By Joseph Campbell

NASUGBU, Philippines, Jan 21 (Reuters) – A small farm in the Philippines’ Batangas province is providing a safe haven for pets rescued from an exclusion zone around an active volcano.

Taal began spewing clouds of ash on Jan. 12, forcing thousands to flee their homes and abandon their pets.

Felix Casba, a caretaker at the farm in Nasugbu town, said he and his boss have been taking in stray dogs for years, but since the eruption, they’ve collected more than 200 new animals, including goats, cats, rabbits and pigeons.

“If things in the area go back to normal, then the owners of the dogs will come and claim them. But if the dogs remain unclaimed, then we’ll still take good care of them for life,” Casba said on Tuesday, after accepting a dozen rescued dogs.

Authorities have thrown a 14-km (9-mile) exclusion zone around the volcano, with experts saying an eruption could bring a devastating rain of rocks and magma and unleash a tsunami in the lake around it.

Volunteer Renz Oliver Garcia, 27, said he and other rescuers have been sneaking around back roads to avoid police roadblocks and rescue pets and livestock at addresses posted by desperate owners on social media.

Garcia said he did not mind the risks, even if he had been bitten by rescued animals.

“Yes, I have been bitten so many times. The risk is rabies. When a dog bites me, we observe the condition of the dog. Then I’ll have rabies shots. But sometimes, I don’t get the rabies shots after the bite,” he said.

More than 100,000 people have been evacuated after Taal, one of the Philippines’ most activevolcanoes, erupted more than a week ago, blanketing homes, schools and farms with ash.

Volcanologists have kept the danger level at 4 out of a possible 5, meaning that a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days”.

Just 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes. It killed more than 1,300 people in an eruption in 1911.

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