How Animal Owners Are Coping After Slide In Heart Of Washington's Horse Country

Mar 31, 2014

Tons of donated food has already poured into the tiny Snohomish County communities touched by the deadly March 22 mudslide, and not all of it's for humans.

Dozens of volunteers spent the weekend stocking up donated feed for critters as small as chickens and as large as cows at a makeshift animal shelter and food shelf at the Darrington Rodeo Grounds, just east of the slide area.

It's one of many ways community members are coping with the disaster, which hit the heart of the state's horse country. Members of the Darrington Horse Owner's Association started the effort to accommodate animals displaced by the slide.

But increasingly, the focus has been on food and supplies for animal owners. Many, if not most people who live in the area, own large animals or livestock. Yet in shutting down State Route 530, the mudslide severed animal owners' only direct route to supplies in the bigger stores in bigger cities to the west.

"This could go for half a year here," said Rick Karns, a board member with the horse owner's association. "It could go well into the fall, trying to get people back with their animals. They can't afford food. People lost everything, and there's no insurance coverage."

Volunteers have scrambled to keep up with a flood of donated food. The animal food company Purina donated 27 tons of food. Another feed company, Nutrena, matched that donation. On Saturday, two semi-truckloads of dog and cat food arrived, and workers unloaded them alongside trailer after trailer full of hay.

Karns says the generosity has been "overwhelming."

"The humanity of this whole thing has just been staggering. It's also creating its own problems as well. It's trying to make sure [the donations] get [to] the right spots," he said. "Being a small community, we don't have a lot of warehouses, so a lot of people are cleaning out their barns right now."

Owners of the handful of displaced animals at the rodeo grounds say it's comforting to have a safe place to keep their animals.

After the slide narrowly missed her house, Lilianna Andrews, 13, says flood waters from the dammed-up, mud-logged Stilliguamish River began rising, threatening her family's animals.

She and her family members acted fast. They managed to save all seven of their horses and all of their chickens, bringing them to the rodeo grounds for shelter.

"Being safe, and having my family and my horses is an incredible stress-reliever for me," Andrews said. "We are just so blessed."