- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

SHARPSBURG, Md. — A horse rescue in Western Maryland involved the same Humane Society disaster team that responds to hurricanes, floods and forest fires.

Over the weekend, the Humane Society of the United States sent two members of its disaster-response unit to Sharpsburg to help the Humane Society of Washington County round up dozens of sick, hungry and frightened horses on a poorly tended farm.

The team provided shelter, snacks and hot drinks to volunteers.

The unit’s field operations director and equine specialist arrived in a 38-foot recreational vehicle and a truck pulling a smaller trailer to support local workers and volunteers in a three-day rescue operation at the Windrinker Farm near Sharpsburg.

Local authorities had seized the 33-acre farm and an estimated 74 horses, many of them ill and underfed. Workers took about 30 of the horses to animal hospitals and horse-rescue operations and solicited hay donations to feed the remaining animals.

One critically ill horse died during the operation, and authorities found the remains of six horses on the property.

Investigators are considering charges against the owner, said local Humane Society spokeswoman Katherine Cooker.

Humane Society Rescue Response Director Jeff Eyre and equine specialist Allen Schwartz slept at the site, helping provide security and shelter from the frigid weather.

Mr. Schwartz lent a needed hand Sunday in subduing a panicked white stallion that had become trapped in a section of portable fencing.

The Animal Disaster Services Team, with 13 staff members and five specially equipped vehicles across the country, is ready to roll whenever an animal-control problem overwhelms local authorities, Randy Covey, the unit’s director said yesterday.

Whether it’s a hurricane — such as the 2005 storms that prompted the unit’s expansion — a flash flood, wildfire or a house crammed with cats, the team is “committed to respond at a moment’s notice to getting in there and providing the resources necessary,” Mr. Covey said in a telephone interview from a disaster-preparedness meeting in Texas.

He said the disaster team added 10 members and most of its vehicles during the 2005 hurricane season, when the Humane Society helped save thousands of pets and other animals displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“The only thing we had before Katrina was a pickup truck and an operations trailer,” he said.

Since February, when Mr. Covey joined the national office after eight years with the Oregon Humane Society, the disaster team has responded to about a dozen situations, including flooding in Ohio and New York, wildfires in Montana and a cat-hoarding case in Idaho involving more than 400 cats, Mr. Covey said.

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