HEART: a rescue group with brains and muscle

Dogtime salutes Spokane’s HEART (Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team).

How did your organization get started?

HEART was created in 2003 as a non-profit organization to work in conjunction with state and county animal agencies to provide help during times of disaster such as fire, wind storms, hurricanes, and/or extreme emergencies. Our group of volunteers form both a local and national emergency response team.


What is your mission?

The purpose of HEART is to coordinate efforts to provide rapid response to events affecting the health, safety, and welfare of human beings and animals. Activities include but are not limited to small and large animal care, facility usage, and providing mass care and sheltering for companion animals, livestock, wildlife, and exotic animals following a major emergency or disaster.

How do most of your animals find their way to you?

Through natural disasters, hoarding cases, and puppy mill seizures.

What happens to the animals once they are in your care?

They are documented at intake, assessed for medical needs, are given fresh food and water, and a clean cage or kennel to relax in. They are then lovingly cared for around the clock by our trained responders until which time demobilization of the Sheltering Operation is initiated by the Incident Commander. Owner identified animals are returned to their happy and grateful owners and those without identification or known history are transferred to foster homes, rescue groups and shelters for further care.

Tell us about a particularly compelling animal or inspiring rescue.

A number of our team members had been deployed to another state and were assisting in the sheltering and care of over 275 dogs and puppies who had been rescued from a puppy mill. These poor dogs had been seriously neglected and had been living in filthy, stench-filled cages and pens. They had come to us scared and dirty, their fur matted with feces and urine. Many of them had severe untreated eye conditions and a couple were blind from lack of care. The majority were small breeds, and these tiny angels had never been held or cuddled by human arms. We worked many long days to clean, comfort, and give loving reassurance to them.

One of our tiny charges was a fluffy Pekingnese puppy with big sad eyes, who had arrived at the shelter all alone, with no known siblings or mother dog. He was affectionately named Elvis by our Operations Supervisor, and quickly became the darling of the temporary shelter crew. On the last day of the assignment, as we finished loading the dogs onto transport vehicles, on their way to a better, kinder life, a whistle rang out and we all stopped what we were doing and looked up momentarily. Our Supervisor had just watched the last of the first group of dogs loaded onto the ASPCA truck, and with great glee announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, ELVIS has left the building!” We all laughed and clapped, and our hearts felt so good inside to know we had been an important part of this precious puppy’s journey to a new beginning and loving home!