When Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services seized 63 neglected horses from a property on West Plains in November, Brenda Wright knew her phone was going to ring.
She’s the field rescue team leader with Spokane-based Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team, or HEART.
“Spokane is not that big an area and that big rescue saturated us with rescue horses,” Wright said while visiting three of the rescued horses at Shannon Morse’s farm near Mount Spokane.
HEART does not run its own shelter or adoption service, Wright explained. Instead, the group helps out bigger organizations like the American Humane Association, SCRAPS and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when natural disasters strike or when animals need new homes because of cruelty and abuse.
“Typically they call us and we find out if anyone can go,” Wright said, adding that the group was founded in 2003. She got involved in 2006. While travel and necessities are paid for if volunteers are deployed to a natural disaster area several states away, the work itself is unpaid.
“You don’t come out ahead doing this,” Wright said with a chuckle. “You do it because it’s your passion.”
About 15 HEART volunteers are certified animal rescuers. Certification is obtained by taking classes through organizations like the Humane Society and ASPCA.
“We also encourage our members to volunteer at shelters on a regular basis,” Wright said. “If you take a class on dog behavior it’s important to keep using what you’ve learned. Shelters are perfect for that.”
Morse has a long history of working with horses and equine-assisted therapy. She’s one of the women behind the Cowgirl Co-op in nearby Green Bluff, where she works with female combat veterans, as well as riders and horses at many skill levels.
Why does she take in rescue horses?
“Well, they need a place to be,” Morse said, pausing a bit. “And many of them have issues. They can be more aggressive because they are scared or because they aren’t socialized.” She works with the rescued horses on a daily basis so they get used to being touched and understand that being around people doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen.
“They just need a little help,” Morse said.
She keeps some of the rescues and finds forever homes for others.
HEART also works with small-animal rescue, finding homes for everything from dogs to llamas, when needed.
“And we help people be prepared,” Wright said. “If you have six horses and a two-horse trailer, what are you going to do when the wildfire comes over the hill?”
HEART’s website has information about how to take care of pets during a natural disaster.
“We show people how to pack a bag with bowls and food and have it ready,” said HEART’s communications volunteer, Mindy Wright, no relation.
What binds the small group of volunteers is their passion for animals, and how they want to make sure animals are well taken care of.
Brenda Wright said she understands that not everyone can do what she’s doing when she deploys to take care of animals in another state.
“But everyone can make a phone call when they see animals being mistreated,” she said. “We just wish they’d make that call. Then we can come out and help.”