An officer from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was sharing an scenario that was repeatedly found this past week.
The officer was helping evacuate people and their animals at a ranch in Santa Clarita. One man showed up at the ranch needing to move his 30 horses. But he didn’t have a single trailer.
“When you have animals, you have to prepare for a disaster,” said the officer, who didn’t want to be named.
That became quite clear this week for hundreds of animals — large and small — that had to be evacuated by their owners as the flames burned perilously close.
According to the county Department of Animal Care and Control, there were 837 evacuated animals in area shelters as of Tuesday, July 26 — an increase of 70 from the previous day.
The displaced animals included 377 horses, 157 goats, 117 chickens and 34 pigs. Llama, mules, sheep, rabbits, turkeys and donkeys were also among the critters being overseen at shelters including the Antelope Valley Fair Grounds, Hansen Dam and Pierce College.
Smaller animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs were being cared for at county animal shelters in Lancaster, Agoura, Castaic and Palmdale.
On Wednesday, July 27, the Wildlife Waystation in Sylmar began receiving animals back to its fire-evacuated sanctuary from Frazier Park in Acton. Waystation officials expected to have 10-15 wild animals — including lions, tigers and raccoons — back to their familiar surroundings.
“They are still skittish. Some are fine, others will be stressed. But to have their familiar people, toys and smells around again, hopefully they will be comfortable again shortly, said Stacey Holman, facility spokeswoman.
At the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, owners and caretakers were trying to do their best to keep dozens of horses fed and comfortable.
“Some horses are not used to these type of barns. Others have separation anxiety, but if you get bucked off you need to get back up,” said David Lazarus, who owns about 22 horses he keeps at the Upper Middle Ranch in Little Tujunga.
Lazarus and several other owners — who were told on July 22 they needed to evacuate their animals — described moving hundreds of horses in the middle of the night with no power and surrounded by smoke and ash as “controlled chaos.”
“It was a little nutty,” added Liz Schultz who did the same for her horses. “A lot of people were out there with trailers. The power went out and the flames gave a nice illumination. It’s hard to trailer them out by car light, but you need what you need to do.”
They were all evacuated safely. Since then, owners, family members and volunteers come back to check the horses and make sure they were as comfortable as can be.
One by one they took the horses out of their stalls to walk them a little. Others fed them carrots and talked to them, trying to keep it as normal as possible.
Some owners had brought a special feed that the horses like.
“The most important thing is feeding them. A full belly, a quiet horse,” Lazarus said.