WHEN YOUR ANIMAL is in need of a rescue, who you gonna call? Not Ghostbusters!
If your horse, dog or livestock falls into a ravine, gets stuck in mud or gets stranded on of one of our shoreline cliffs, you can call Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART).
WASART is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all-volunteer, all-donation supported organization that helps companion animals and livestock out of immediate crisis and dangerous situations, whatever that may be. For example, if your horse falls into a well, your dog falls over a cliff, your cow gets stuck in the barn wall, or your community needs help with short-term shelter for animals in cases such as wildfire threat, WASART is trained to help out.
Until Kelly Thomas, one of WASART’s local volunteers, contacted me after reading about the Equine Emergency Protocol initiative in the second half of my column titled “Hoof beats on beach for August treat” (Sept. 26, 2021), I had never heard of the organization.
Thomas is also a member of Clallam County Search and Rescue deployed by the county Sheriff’s Office. She’s one of two WASART members on the Olympic Peninsula, and she’s hopeful more Peninsula residents will step up to volunteer. The group hosts free emergency response training sessions throughout the year.
“The thing that hooked me on WASART was being on a technical rescue team where there’s rigging equipment, operators and attendants that can actually go over the cliff to rescue dogs,” Thomas said. “That really interested me, and so I went over to a base and operations training and joined right then and there.”
She suggesting searching YouTube to view videos of some of the training and rescues WASART has performed.
A great many horse owners are concerned about how they can respond and where they could evacuate should a catastrophic event — such as wildfire, earthquake or flood — occur on the Peninsula.
Earlier this month, heavy rains caused multiple problems, including landslides and power outages. On the West End, Back Country Horsemen Mount Olympus chapter member Sherry Baysinger reported that flooding caused a huge landslide between Sekiu and Clallam Bay that resulted in both towns losing water access.
It brought serious emergency preparedness to the forefront.
“Fortunately, not too many people in those areas have many horses or cows,” she said.
She and her husband, Larry Baysinger, were able to take a flatbed trailer with a 500 gallon water storage tank to friends who were without water. They also had friends in Clallam Bay whose house and 60-acre farm was entirely flooded.
A few of our local Back Country Horsemen chapter members, especially those from Jefferson County’s Buckhorn Range chapter, are actively putting together an Emergency Response Protocol (ERP) system.
Indian Island resident and horse owner Jeani Buchanan joined Buckhorn Range because of its support in getting ERP off the ground. Her greatest concern is the threat of wildfire. She worries if she will know early enough to evacuate with her horses and to where she could evacuate.
She’s putting together an information packet with a telephone tree to call and warn those when a wildfire may be headed their way and what horse trailers and pastures are available for emergency use. If you’d like to be included, contact her at [email protected] or 360-385-1608.
I also spoke with WASART public information officer Michaela Eaves, who said the organization was founded in 2007 due to concern over the lack of animal response teams during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Because traditional rescuers were there during the disaster and its aftermath to help people, many animals were left behind to fend for themselves. The group wanted to ensure that didn’t happen should a similar event occur in Washington state.
Since then, WASART has helped with numerous individual rescues, a few wildfire rescues and, more recently, with some animals stranded by flooding in Bellingham.
In case of a mass evacuation, they can supply pens for horses, livestock and smaller companion animals and can help oversee the evacuation area.
“We can always use more volunteers willing to be trained and help out during emergencies,” Eaves said.
She’d really like to get the help and support of Back Country Horsemen groups since they already have good working knowledge of how to handle horses. She hopes to host an information seminar as we as the threat of COVID-19 wanes and folks are able to gather more freely.
Eaves said they have monthly technical rescue trainings that any interested folks may attend to see what’s involved.
Check the calendar on its website — wasart.org — for when, where and what type.
Although WASART does not self-deploy, the team may be called out by an owner or an agency, such as a fire department or sheriff’s office. It is a nonprofit and run by volunteers. Its responders are credentialed as emergency workers.
WASART does not charge for its services. However, much of the equipment and training is expensive, and donations are always accepted.
Funds buy rescue equipment and training materials, pay for the answering service, fuel and licenses and insurance as well as other expenses. Members buy their own personal rescue gear.
Make donations online at paypal.me/wasart or mail donations to P.O. Box 21, Enumclaw, WA 98022.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.