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Four-legged critters get assist during fire

By Karen Pearlman, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

SAN DIEGO - Sherry Moland spent part of Wednesday afternoon at Iron Oak Canyon Ranch in Spring Valley, Calif., with her adopted 8-year-old horse, Whisper, tending to the horse's physical and emotional needs.

As Moland put salve on the horse's hooves, stroked her mane and fed her some fresh hay in the hazy sunshine off Campo Road, she said her home is not in the fire zone at present but she wasn't taking any chances. She remembered well going through the Harris Fire in 2007, just a few months after moving into her Campo home.

She said on Monday she called the San Diego Humane Society about a pickup and the San Diego County Department of Animal Services picked Whisper up and brought her to safety.

The Humane Society's Emergency Response Team has been working in the field with Animal Services, evacuating animals and bringing them to safety. The partnership ensures that there is a coordinated response for those in need and that the resources of both groups are deployed efficiently.

Although Moland's home thus far has been spared, she said she knows well how the wind could change and send embers her way.

"We're on standby for evacuation," Moland said. "We live in a fire zone, it's going to happen, just be prepared."


Whisper is one of more than 50 animals currently housed at Iron Oak Canyon Ranch, brought by residents who have been evacuated during the fire o,r like Moland, are preparing for a worst-case scenario. She said unless something changes with the fire, she plans to keep Whisper there there until Saturday or Sunday.

Whisper is in good company, with several other horses, more than two dozen alpacas, some goats, chickens and turkeys. The private boarding ranch, formerly known as Bright Valley Farms, is lending its barrel racing arena to the San Diego Humane Society, which has been working with Animal Services to provide shelter, food and water to animals in its care.

Kelly Campbell, director of Animal Services, said between the groups, they are caring for more than 300 animals - from large animals like horses to dogs and cats - at temporary emergency boarding shelters in Lakeside at the Rodeo Grounds and at El Capitan High, at the county's main shelter in Bonita and at the Iron Oak Canyon site.

Campbell said that if reports for CalFire over the next few nights show that the fire is being contained, and it is safe to do so, the sites will close and people will be able to take their animals home.


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