The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) commends Dr. Saralynn Specht, the January honoree of the Good Works for Horses Campaign, for donating countless hours in recent months caring for horses and other animals affected by the most destructive wildfire in California history.
Good Works for Horses honors AAEP-member practitioners who perform volunteer service to benefit horses and the equine community. Horse owners and veterinary professionals are encouraged to nominate AAEP members for this monthly recognition.
A 2014 graduate of the University of California, Davis, Specht moved to Butte County, California, in May of 2018 to start her own large animal mobile practice. As her client roster expanded, the Camp Fire ignited in early November.
When hearing that horses were being evacuated to the Butte County Fairgrounds, just four miles from her residence, Specht visited the fairgrounds to examine them. When the fairgrounds quickly became a full-scale evacuation center, Specht suspended her growing solo practice to focus on triage and care for hundreds of injured and evacuated horses, chickens, goats and sheep, as well llamas, alpacas, pigs and water fowl.
She checked the animals in the mornings before returning in early afternoon and often working late into the evening treating facial and foot burns, trauma wounds, colic and dehydration. Severe cases were triaged and sent to UC Davis for treatment before returning to the fairgrounds for recovery.
“It was wonderful to meet the owners of these animals when we were able to reunite everybody,” said Specht, who resumed her solo practice in January. “Hearing these people’s stories, it really touches you. They’ve lost everything else, but for them to find their animal, it means so much to them. I think it gave the community a sense that plenty of people care for them.”
Beyond providing compassionate care, Specht also worked with local home improvement stores to donate plywood, gates and other necessities; persuaded several farmers to donate their utility vehicles so volunteers could move around the fairgrounds faster; and established a GoFundMe that raised more than $2,000 for a gasoline generator. She distributed remaining funds to several families who needed money for a place to stay.
Specht is quick to acknowledge those who ran the evacuation site, her fellow volunteers, veterinary companies that donated medications and supplies, and the Northern California Association of Equine Practitioners, which established a volunteer schedule to relieve the heavy burden on Specht and another veterinarian who had been working every day the first few weeks of the disaster.
“Many of us volunteered at various times, but Dr. Specht gave generously of her time when others, including myself, could not,” said Dr. Sarah McCarthy, who nominated Specht for this honor. “When others did not come for their shifts, she filled in. If there were emergencies when no one else was there, she was available.”
Throughout 2019, the AAEP’s Good Works for Horses Campaign will spotlight AAEP-member practitioners whose volunteer efforts are improving the health and welfare of horses. To discover the Good Works of AAEP veterinarians or nominate a Good Works candidate, visit the AAEP website. For more information on nominating a veterinarian for this program, contact Michelle Behm, AAEP communications coordinator, at [email protected].
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its over 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.