Agriplex welcomes evacuated horses

While Prince George continues to take in evacuees from neighboring communities hit by the Cariboo wildfires, area volunteers continue to pull together to help animals in need of rescue.

Volunteer Susan Boos from the Prince George Horse Society says there are too many volunteers to count since opening the animal crisis centre for horses and livestock at the Agriplex.

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"The last 24 hours have been non-stop," Boos said.

"Since 9:30 p.m. the centre was deemed as an essential service. Before this, it was just permitted. At this time, we are sending truck after truck as often as we can."

For Boos, the recent evacuations prove that this essential service is one that the city needs in case of another future catastrophic event.

"We've always worried that the city might want this property for future development but it is an essential service. It's times like this that prove that," she said.

"We can't afford to lose this place."

The centre is now housing 60 displaced animals due to the wildfires. Debbie Larose from Williams Lake has two horses staying at the centre.

"We brought them in yesterday morning," Larose said.

"We don't know if we are coming or going. We don't even know what time it is. My husband is still in Williams Lake on evacuation alert. It's just a waiting game," Larose said.

Her friend Angela Norbury, also from Williams Lake, has three horses staying at the centre.

"We found about this on Facebook. We heard they were taking names and I put my name in right away. It's just been amazing coming here. Everyone has been so awesome," Norbury said.

Both Curt and Nora Wallach from the society, along with their daughter Chelsea and many other volunteers, have been working around the clock to make sure all of the animals are looked after from the time they arrive at the centre.

"We've been picking animals up in and out of fire zones," Chelsea said. "It just goes to show how great Prince George has been."

Volunteers from the horse community and beyond are stepping in to lend a hand by providing hay and manpower.

But more help is needed.

"Gas cards are always helpful," Boos said. "It's gets expensive traveling back and forth. And we can always use more bails of hay, rather than rounds of hay. We just used 60 bails this morning."

Panels are also needed to help build more pens.

"We can always use more volunteers to help build and lift hay," she said.

The centre continues to fill up with horses who are welcomed with a clean stall and fresh hay and water after being signed in and marked.

For the young volunteers, helping out at a time of need has been eye-opening.

"I love horses," said 11-year-old Alivia Eliason from Prince George.

"I'm glad I can help in a time of bad news."

Another young girl continued to brush the chestnut coat of a horse who recently found a friendly home away from home.

"It just feels so good because these horses have lost everything," said 12-year-old Sarah Derouin.

"It's great knowing that we can help these families at a time like this."

And for 13-year-old Bailey Larson, it's a sad time but one that gives her hope as she continues to rub the nose of one of her favorites.

"It's sad for me to know that the horses are here but there are lots of kids helping which is great," Larson said.

"I would want people to do the same if it were my horses."

For anyone needing assistance, they are invited to bring their animals to the Prince George Agriplex at 4199 18th Ave.

For more information, visit B.C.'s Emergency Livestock Animal Evacuation Group on Facebook.

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