HEART to the Rescue

By Mark Walker

Photos by Kathy Brasch

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As crews battled a 3,000-acre wildfire just a few miles away, Loki and Fanny rested comfortably with their owner, thanks to some kind-hearted volunteers.

The two felines were safely tucked away in an emergency human and animal shelter the American Red Cross set up at Kettle Falls High School.

The kitties comfort stemmed from the work of volunteers from the Spokane-based Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team, or HEART, which partnered with the Red Cross to administer the shelter.

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“We can shelter up 65 dogs and cats,” said Donna Breidenbach, a HEART volunteer who was helping staff the shelter. “We’re dedicated to helping make sure animals are as well-cared for as possible during a very stressful time.”

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The shelter established on Aug. 11 in response to the Boyds Fire burning in Eastern Washington’s Ferry and Stevens counties was at mid-week housing 11 dogs, 16 cats and three bunnies.

The blaze has destroyed three houses and several outbuildings and was threatening more than 100 other homes.

Red Cross shelter supervisor and longtime volunteer Kathy Brasch said having HEART on hand to take care of evacuated animals allows her and other volunteers to focus on human needs.

volunteer-kathy-brasch-welcomes-evacuees-to-the-shelter.jpg“We know at the Red Cross that people will stay at home as long as possible because they don’t want to leave their pets behind,” Brasch said.

Emergency operations officials were quick to get the word out that the high school shelter was able to accommodate small animals as well as their owners.

“Our HEART volunteers have been right at the front door as people came in,” Brasch said.

HEART provides kennels and keeps dogs and cats in separate areas. Several pet owners set up cots next to their critters rather than sleeping in the gymnasium serving as a temporary dormitory, including Loki and Fanny’s owner, Carol Payne.

“They’ve been a lifesaver,” Payne said, praising the HEART and Red Cross shelter volunteers. “They’ve been very kind and compassionate and made things a little easier during a frustrating and scary time.”

For more information about HEART and its work see the website www.heartofspokane.org.

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