Equestrian community pulls together to care for horses caught up in devastating US wildfires

  • The equestrian community is pulling together to help horses and owners affected by the devastating fires sweeping the West Coast of the US.

    Oregon, California and Washington have been particularly badly hit by blazes, which have hit multiple states in recent weeks.

    In California alone, nearly 16,500 firefighters are working to contain 28 major wildfires. There have been 24 fatalities and more than 4,200 buildings destroyed since 15 August and fires have burned more than 3.2 million acres across the state this year.

    Dozens of individuals have also joined the effort, helping with evacuations and offering spare stables to those forced to flee, with dressage yard Devon Wood Equestrian Centre in Oregon among those taking in hundreds of horses in need.

    Facebook groups have also popped up to help coordinate the effort, helping match those with space, supplies and/or transport with horses and owners in need.

    The University of California’s Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has been treating animals burned in the fires, with the emergency response team caring for animals at evacuations centres and those sheltering on ranches.

    They have also conducted search and rescue missions.

    The team has evaluated, triaged and provided treatment where necessary to more than 1,000 animals in the field, including horses and donkeys, with the critical care specialists at the hospital looking after 30 of the more serious cases.

    On 12-13 September alone, the team assessed 264 animals.

    The latest update from the vet school (15 September) said they are “committed to treating as many animals as they can”.

    “To respond to the fire in a way that best utilizes our resources and to assist the greatest number of injured animals, our veterinary hospital clinicians and staff will prioritize our response to emphasize ambulatory (in the field) and telehealth consultation to maximize our service within our treatment area,” said the spokesman.

    “Animals judged to need more intensive care or surgical intervention will take priority as hospitalized patients.

    “In addition, we will be treating and discharging animals from the hospital as quickly as safely possible in order to treat the greatest number of animals that we can. This involves returning animals to owners or evacuation centers when possible, and utilizing a network of foster homes for others. In previous fire responses, we had more capacity to keep some animals for longer-term non-critical care.

    “We are committed to treating as many animals as we can that are affected by the fires, and we greatly appreciate the community’s support during this extremely stressful and difficult time.”

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    In Oregan, more than 11 vets, technicians, staff and students from the state university’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine has volunteered to care for affected animals.

    The American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Foundation for the Horse is among the organisations raising money to support the effort, giving $5,000 (£3,886) to two groups last month and is welcoming further donations.

    The money went to the Northern California Association of Equine Practitioners and the University of California Davis’ veterinary emergency response team, and further support is being provided to other groups.

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