Approximately 200 animals displaced by the recent flooding in San Benito County have found refuge at the Bolado Park fairgrounds in covered stalls, box stalls, the poultry exhibit building, both show rings and stock pens.
The first animals arrived following the January levy breach along the Pacheco Creek, which caused flooding in the Lovers Lane/San Felipe Road area northeast of Hollister. Subsequent breaches, flooding and evacuations have heightened the need for a temporary home for displaced goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks.
“We had 165 (animals) as of Monday and then Tuesday we got almost 150 goats,” said Dara Tobias, Bolado Park’s chief executive officer and interim fair manager. “The babies are squirrely, so it is hard to get an exact count.”
As a district agricultural association that is owned by the state of California, “part of our relevance is the ability of our facility to the community during emergency situations,” Tobias told BenitoLink on Thursday. “We were the easiest to host the animals because we have the pens and stalls ready at any time. We would also be able to work with Red Cross, OES (Office of Emergency Services) and any other agency to provide shelter for people, if needed.”
In fact, while there are no people from the evacuated area staying at Bolado now, the fairgrounds did make RV spaces available in the immediate aftermath of the flooding.
“A huge number of people evacuated from the Oroville area (following recent threats of a dam breach) were evacuated to three or four local DAA fairgrounds,” Tobias noted. “We do not have cots or any amenities to house people on our own, but if larger evacuations would be needed, we would work with other agencies to provide amenities to house larger numbers of people.”
For the evacuated animals, the fairgrounds is working exclusively through Animal Control to receive animals it evacuates.
“This helps us have some security and assurance that our hard costs will be covered,” Tobias said. “While we do not intend to charge our victims, we are completely self-funded here and we do not have a lot of room in our budget for the extra costs incurred.” The state allocation to Bolado for 2016 was $50,000, so the rest of its budget to run, repair and maintain grounds and buildings and put on the county fair is generated through facility rentals, sponsorships and event income.
“We have a very tight budget, especially now that we have been hit by downed fences and storm-related issues,” Tobias said. “We don’t have any intention of gaining from the flood victims and we are truly thrilled that we are here and have the facility to help them. The things that we have asked are are working with Animal Control on are help with the hard costs for things like removal of manure and soiled bedding and some reimbursement for the costs of lights and our water pump. They have also indicated we will be able to get help if there is any serious damage to any of the areas the animals are occupying.”
As for how long the displaced animals will be housed at Bolado, Tobias said “they will be here until their property is determined to be safe enough to house them or until they find an alternate place.”
Owners of the animals are providing everything for them, including feed, bedding, buckets, hoses and other supplies related to their care and feeding. “We only provide space and water,” Tobias said, pointing out that some owners “are here twice a day and they are keeping the pens clean and being very helpful with keeping the areas clean and safe.”
There were a few animals evacuated during the initial flooding whose owners were out of the country and could not be immediately contacted, Tobias said. “If any owners are not able to be here, they are working with Animal Control to make sure the animals are taken care of.”
How to help
While the fairgrounds cannot have community volunteers on-site to handle other people’s animals, Tobias said anyone interested in donating items to help the animals check with Julie or Katy at Animal Control at 636-4320. People interested in learning more about the Bolado Park grounds and facilities can contact Tobias at 628-3421 or email her at email@example.com.