No animal left behind
Trying to persuade a 1,000-pound pig to get in a livestock trailer is no small task — especially as a raging wildfire fills the air with smoke.
The Sanctuary One rescue farm has firsthand experience evacuating dozens of animals after the Miller Complex of fires threatened the Applegate Valley in 2017.
“We knew that with 58 animals on the farm — especially with two of them being roughly 1,000-pound pigs — it was going to be a little bit of work,” said Sanctuary One Executive Director Megan Flowers.
With teamwork and the help of the community, people and animals escaped the fire.
“When we were facing evacuations, we had over 100 community members reach out to be fosters. Now, sometimes their hearts were bigger than their fences and they weren’t able to be a foster for our farm animals,” Flowers said. “But they were able to help with our cats.”
Animals fanned out to 17 temporary foster homes, she said.
The Equamore Horse Sanctuary outside Ashland took in Sanctuary One’s horses, while the Southern Oregon Humane Society housed its dogs.
As the start of this year’s fire season approaches no later than June 1, Sanctuary One and other local sanctuaries are already in preparation mode.
Sanctuary One regularly holds fire drills to make sure animals, volunteers, interns and staff members can escape. They’ve checked to make sure animals have places to go.
“We actually already have gone through our list of foster families to check back in,” Flowers said. “Are they still available to be fosters this year? So we already have that system in place. Depending on the level of the fire intensity, our first priority is get everyone off the farm.”
The Equamore Horse Sanctuary also has an emergency plan, said executive director Linda Davis.
The nonprofit organization has a list of people who will come to help evacuate horses, plus a list of property owners willing to take in the animals, she said.
Davis said everyone with animals should make an evacuation plan that includes how to transport animals to alternate locations. She said animals should never be abandoned inside corrals or barns as a wildfire approaches.
“I keep hearing these horror stories where people will evacuate and leave their animals in pens and they can’t even get out. If somebody can’t move them to a safe place, at least open the gate and let them have a chance of surviving. Let them at least run,” Davis said.
Like other nonprofit groups and businesses that host outdoor activities, Sanctuary One and Equamore have been hurt by several summers of persistent wildfire smoke.
Equamore had to cancel horse shows in 2018.
“People couldn’t ride in it. It just wasn’t healthy enough,” Davis said.
The horse sanctuary at 4723 Highway 66 is holding an open house and silent auction from 3 to 5 p.m. on June 8 and July 13. Mimosas, wine, lemonade, appetizers and desserts will be served as people mingle and meet the horses. For more information, visit www.equamore.org.
At Sanctuary One, two donors have stepped up to help the nonprofit deal with wildfire impacts.
The rescue farm hosts 90-minute guided tours of its 55-acre property at 10:30 a.m. each Friday and Saturday through October.
In May and June, for every $10 tour ticket sold, the donors will provide a $10 match — turning $10 into $20 for Sanctuary One.
Flowers said she hopes the matching donations will help offset any July through October losses if wildfires and smoke strike again this summer.
To register for a walking tour and for directions to the farm at 13195 Upper Applegate Road in the Applegate Valley, visit sanctuaryone.org. Visitors needing mobility assistance can use a golf cart with prior notice by calling 541-899-8627.
There is no cell service, so visitors should write down or print out directions to the farm.
The tour involves a three-quarter-mile walk with visits to rescued animals and vegetable and flower gardens.
Animals currently at the farm include cows, horses, baby and adult sheep, goats, small pot-bellied pigs, large pigs, chickens, cats and dogs.
Many are available for adoption, which makes room for more abused, neglected or unwanted animals to come to the farm.
Flowers said the tours are a learning experience for both kids and adults, many of whom have limited experience with farm animals. She remembers one kid exclaiming he didn’t know pigs had hair.
Sanctuary One is designed to be an oasis for people as well as animals.
With twittering birds, open pastures of green grass and a woodland on the property, the farm is a haven for families looking to disconnect from cellphones and social media.
In partnership with other local nonprofits, the farm hosts veterans, breast cancer survivors, neglected and abused kids, homeless youth and people in recovery from addiction.
The visitors often work directly with the animals.
“The veterans are helping them be more adoptable when they sit and play with the cats or when they’re helping groom a horse or work with the goats,” Flowers said. “It helps the animals become more social. It helps them learn to trust people again.”
She said humans can have just as many trust issues as the animals they are helping. They have to learn to project a calm, compassionate demeanor while working with animals.
“That’s what makes Sanctuary One special,” Flowers said. “It’s those opportunities for people and animals to connect. When you can have that connection, that’s where magic happens. That’s where healing happens and that’s where hope can be found for both the animal and the person.”