Horses and Hurricane Charley

Despite widespread structural damage and economic devastation to areas of Florida, the horse population fared well in the path of Hurricane Charley. At least three horses were euthanized in Florida from injuries resulting from flying debris during Charley's strike, said Alan Schwartz of Days End Farm Horse Rescue of Lisbon, Md. Friday, Aug. 13, was in fact a bad luck day, as winds up to 145 mph ripped across the state. Code 3 Associates, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Disaster Animal Response Team, the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), and the state Emergency Support Function 17 are just a few of the groups across the country that came to the aid of Florida animals.

Code 3 Associates called for the services of Schwartz, who arrived in Bartow, Fla., on Aug. 18. He was stationed at the Bob Crawford Agricultural Center (and Polk County 4-H Center), which served as a command center for equine rescue efforts. He was on a team with Florida Department of Agriculture representatives; Kelly Harrington, Director of New York State Disaster Relief at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and EARS veterinary technicians. The team collaborated with the Hillsborough County Veterinary Office to deliver water and feed to horse farms in the area.

The most pressing problem with horses was heat stroke, as most farms were left in the sweltering heat without electricity and clean drinking water. The team moved to Wauchula, Fla., on Aug. 19 to help more horses. The total number of horses critically injured or killed statewide is unknown. Schwartz said horses were typically treated for puncture or debris wounds, and that several colics were seen.

Suncoast Humane Society (SHS) was established as the staging area for the Charlotte County emergency operations center. About a mile away, lost horses and other livestock were kept on local baseball fields at Carmelita Park in Punta Gorda. At least two horses were found and claimed by their owners in this area, according to Melissa Forberg, a representative from the HSUS who was stationed at the Charlotte County center.

Representatives from the teams worked to provide supplies for rescued Charlotte County animals. Field teams made up of certified rescuers, vets, and knowledgeable volunteers and organized by the SHS, were responsible for delivering supplies to the horse farms. A county fire truck was on loan to help transport water to local farms.

The rescue operations went extremely well. Forberg attributes this to the emergency animal rescue teams being prepared for disasters.

Gary Shiver, DVM, of Florida Veterinary Service in Zolfo Springs, Fla., said, "Very few large animals were affected as far as having a lot of injuries. We encouraged folks to put horses out to keep them away from (falling) debris."

According to Schwartz, most horse owners did exactly that, and horses rode out the storm very well.--Rachael Filkins and Stephanie L. Church

Ways to Help Animals in Charley's Wake

Several Florida county humane societies were hit hard by Hurricane Charley. You can make donations to the local humane societies, such as those of Hardee, De Soto, Okaloosa, and Hillsboro ( Counties. Donations to the De Soto County Humane Society can be sent to Big Lake National Bank, 1601 East Oak Street, Arcadia, FL 34266. Please include Account #266795 on the check, and note that the donation should be applied toward animal care, De Soto Board of County Commissioners, De Soto Disaster Relief.

According to the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA), a number of vet practices were seriously affected by Charley, many facing major structural damage that will put them out of business for a long time. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the FVMA Foundation, 7131 Lake Ellenor Drive, Orlando, FL 32789. Indicate if the donation is to be used either in whole or in part for medical care or humanitarian care, or leave it unspecified. To make credit card donations, call the FVMA at 800/992-3862.

Many small horse farms are in need of fencing supplies--posts, wire, and electric fence. To donate cash or supplies, contact Teresa Carver of Hardee County Animal Control at 863/773-2320.

You might want to split funds between emergency agencies that are prepared to respond to any U.S. disaster. For more information, see

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