Barbara Laurito of Bonsall comforts her horse Wyoming
Barbara Laurito of Bonsall comforts her horse Wyoming at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in December 2017. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego Board of Supervisors honored the Del Mar Fairgrounds Tuesday for sheltering large animals during local emergencies.

Since 2003, the fairgrounds has repeatedly partnered with the county to shelter large animals and livestock belonging to evacuated residents during times of emergency. Because of the nature of the region, those emergencies are usually wildfires, such as the 2017 Lilac Fire when the fairgrounds accepted and sheltered hundreds of horses.

The recognition for the fairgrounds came in conjunction with September’s National Preparedness Month designation.

The fairgrounds “opened its doors to provide safe accommodations and refuge to thousands of residents evacuated from their homes during emergencies, most notably during the historic 2007 wildfires,” said Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar.

The partnership began in 2003 when the Cedar Fire forced the Department of Animal Services to evacuate from its normal shelter in Miramar. Department Director Dan DeSousa got in touch with the fairgrounds and successfully evacuated more than 3,000 large animals to the fairgrounds’ stables. Del Mar accepted another 3,000-plus animals in 2007 when fires caused livestock owners in San Diego to evacuate.

“This partnership means there is a safe haven for people and their animals during a disaster,” DeSousa said.

The county advises all residents to have a plan for their pets and animals large and small. DeSousa suggests getting animals microchipped and making sure a trailer is available to transport horses, cattle or any other animal needing to be evacuated.

“Everybody should have a plan for their animals and their family,” DeSousa said. “It’s the burden and responsibility of an owner.”

— City News Service