A message from Dr. Stephen Klause on the Animal Care at Saddlerock Ranch

On the evening of Friday, November 9, fire from the combined Woosley Malibu Fires swept across Saddlerock Ranch, destroying Malibu Wine Safari.

Ranch personnel received minimal time notification (a little more than 2 hours) that the fire was likely to move over their area. This small window of time given to ranch personnel was due to the speed that the fire was moving because of the 50-70 mph Santa Ana winds. The ranch staff immediately instituted the planned fire protocol that was in place for just such an occurrence.

All of the exotic and domestic animals plus boarding horses were let out into the wide open central area that is contained with many fenced off pastures. This wide open area has no trees or brush, but consists of short grass, dirt, and a lake area. This barren enclosure has little to no “fuel” to power a fire or facilitate the spread of one.

There are over one hundred exotic and domestic animals in addition to dozens of boarding horses on Saddlerock Ranch. As a veterinarian with 33 years of experience, the fire protocol of moving the animals into the central area was the most prudent and realistic plan to get the animals to safety.

Exotic animals cannot simply be haltered and moved onto a trailer and off of the property. The majority of them require anesthesia and major lifting capability to move them onto a trailer. It would take weeks to move a collection of that size and animal type, which in itself, would be an extreme risk to some of the animals. The staff did an amazing job in a very short period of time to accomplish this feat.

No animal moved into that area perished as a result of a fire, which is a testament to the viability and enactment of the ranch’s fire protocol. All of those animals came through the ordeal with no issues whatsoever, with the exception of two animals:

  • One llama had some foot pad issues for which I administered foot care, ointments, bandaging, antibiotics, and pain medications.  

  • One horse had some wire fence injuries which I addressed by sedating the animal, cleaning the wounds, bandaging the leg, suturing the chest laceration, and starting a long-acting antibiotic. Following my procedure, I contacted an equine veterinarian that frequently works on the ranch and described what was wrong with the horse and the emergency care that I gave at the time. That veterinarian was then able to get on the ranch yesterday (Sunday) and continue to provide care for that horse.

After the animals were placed in the safe location, staff and personnel safely evacuated the property. Some staff members were able to get back on the property about four hours later and they worked through the night attending to the animals. I was in contact with staff members and the owner throughout the night.  

I went to Saddlerock early Saturday morning to tend to the animals. All roads in and out of the area were closed due to downed power lines. After almost four hours (and some creative trail driving) I was on the ranch by about 9:00 a.m. When I arrived, I found 95 percent of the animals had already been fed and watered, and the staff was working quickly to care for and nourish the remaining animals.

I spent the majority of the day examining each of the exotic and domestic animals. All of the animals were essentially normal, calm, and eating and drinking. I also ordered a complete replacement of the ranch’s medical supplies which will be onsite by Friday, November 16.

I have been in daily contact with the animal caretakers, owners, and other staff members at Saddlerock Ranch. Currently, there are no new animal issues and they are all doing well at this time. Barring any medical complications, I will be back at Saddlerock Ranch on Friday, November 16 to recheck all of the animals to ensure no latent issues have shown up, and continue any needed treatments.

I commend the staff and owners of Saddlerock Ranch for their quick reactions to the situation and outstanding care and concern for the animals in the face of devastating property damage.

Dr. Stephen Klause