Sunday, September 28, 2008

Galveston Horse Rescue ending

Galveston Horse Rescue Effort Wraps Up
by: Erin Ryder, News Editor
September 26 2008, Article # 12766

A week and a half after Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston, Texas, horse rescue groups working the scene are scaling back their involvement as horse owners return to reclaim their animals and start the long rebuilding process.

Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses, an equine protection organization based in Galveston County, played a key role in effort to triage injured horses and support those left behind when their owners had to flee.

Finch's crew included about 30 volunteers, all with incident command system training, who worked along with local residents and law enforcement to care for the animals. Their work included supporting around 90 horses corralled and maintained on the island, as well as removing 27 injured and ill animals to a staging area on the mainland, where they received veterinary attention and supportive care.
"It looks very similar to what Plaquemines Parish and St. Bernard looked like, with a huge tidal surge that went over the island," Marquette described. "There were a lot of horses that were still over there—(the owners) didn't expect the storm to turn that hard. There were horses running loose, cows all over the place.

"The biggest problem, like with Katrina, is they didn't have any fresh water," Marquette said. "All the standing water had salt in it because the surge was so high. All the grass was covered with salt, so they didn't have anything to eat or drink. We saw a lot of the normal type of injuries you see—barbed wire cuts across the chest, pasterns getting wrapped up in wire, puncture wounds.” Hoof problems were also rampant.
Some Hurricane Ike stories don't have happy endings of horses and owners reuniting. While Finch describes the horses' owners as "very thankful and very happy" with the care their animals have received, not all will be permanently reunited with their horses, generally because of the storm’s devastation to their properties. About 15 horses will enter the Habitat organization, to be placed in foster homes and ultimately adopted.

"These people have nothing left," Finch said. "They have no room for the horses, so we're having to take them in and find adoptive homes for them. It's a real shame. I would love to be able to maintain these horses until they rebuild, but it's going to be January before they can rebuild.

"All things considered, (15 horses to take) is not bad … Everything's destroyed. They love these horses, but they have no place to put them and no money to deal with it," Finch said.

And then there's the matter of the home ranch. The main Habitat for Horses facility in Galveston County, which is home to about 60 horses, was almost completely destroyed. No horses were injured, but the barns and other structures sustained severe damage. While Finch and the Habitat crew are wrapping up efforts on the coast, the long work is just beginning.

"Now we have to get back to the ranch and start rebuilding," Finch said. "The building of stalls and all that again is going to be a major undertaking. It's going to take a lot of money and a lot of time."

The group has put out a call on its Web site for volunteers with construction experience, as well as building materials and other needs."
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