Information is still sketchy on what is really going on with equine rescue efforts in coastal areas of Texas and other states following last week's flooding and devastation from Hurricane Ike. The American Association of Equine Practitioners is encouraging donations to their emergency fund, and there are reports from some individual groups that are working there.
One of the best is provided by the well-known Houston-area rescue group, Habitat For Horses. This was received via press release so it only includes their efforts, but it should give you an idea of what the rescue effort is like.
As ongoing relief efforts continue during the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Habitat for Horses has been working in teams to assess just what Ike's massive storm has inflicted on Texas's equine population left behind in the evacuation.
After the departure of Hurricane Ike, reports of horses that are injured, lost or trapped are coming in daily. Hoping to find survivors, rescue teams are covering the area to assess the damage and address whatever equine and livestock needs they will encounter. Jerry Finch, president and founder of Habitat for Horses, is on Galveston Island with Habitat for Horses rescue teams working with law enforcement officials. Finch said that in addition to the many hazards associated with this kind of a storm, flooding was one of the problems the horses faced.
"The water on Galveston Island got 8 to 10 feet deep, so the horses had to swim out of whatever pastures they were in," said Finch.
After Hurricane Katrina, Habitat for Horses staff ramped up their Emergency Response Team training, never realizing that the next time they would use these training skills would be in their own backyard. The organization's headquarters ranch took a direct hit from Ike. Finch notes that only after they make sure as many horses are as safe as possible, will they address the damage at their facility. While Habitat's own facility was severely damaged, with years of careful planning and building gone, all of the horses there escaped injury. For that, Finch said he was grateful.
"At 2:30 a.m. everything was okay, but the back side of the storm was hard on us. We waded out at sunrise," said Finch. "The horses are shaken and some of them are in pretty bad shape, but they got through it," he added.
So far, 23 horses have been rescued and are being stabled at the Galveston County Fairgrounds where a staging area has been set up. Finch reported that there are still probably many more horses to be found in the area. Finch says that if rescue teams can find the horses, they will take care of them.
"We're working with the Texas Animal Health Commission to make sure cattle have feed and hay also," Finch said. "We will do whatever we can to make sure all the large animals are receiving fresh water, hay and feed," he said.
Those wishing to help the Habitat for Horses rescue efforts can donate via the web site, http://www.habitatforhorses.org or by mail, Habitat for Horses, P.O. Box 213, Hitchcock, TX 77563.