Animal rescue group calls Enumclaw home

By John Leggett-The Courier-Herald

Gretchen McCallum, president of the Washington State Animal Response Team, believes responsible human beings should watch out for the “vulnerables” of this world.

She isn't alone in this conviction.

Even though WASART is still in the infant stages, news of the orientation traveled quickly via word of mouth and the nonprofit organization's Web site.

“We had 40 people show up and really packed 'em in at our gathering place,” McCallum said, referring to an organizational meeting earlier this year. “We had people showing up from as far away as Bremerton, Poulsbo and Arlington and they were all most enthusiastic about WASART, which to my knowledge is the only animal response organization in the state.”

At the heart of the WASART mission is the goal of providing a training structure and documentation to ensure a qualified group of volunteers is available to respond to animal emergencies and disasters in the state of Washington. The group exists to prepare, plan, respond to, recover and shelter animals during such natural, human or technological disasters like flooding, fires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, chemical spills or terrorism. A final mission is to promote public education on disaster preparedness, animal rescue and related topics.

WASART celebrated its first anniversary Feb. 4.

“We are mostly equipped to deal with the evacuation, sheltering and the reuniting of large animals like horses, mules, alpacas, etc.,” McCallum said. “But that doesn't mean that we ignore domesticated animals that are in trouble, like dogs and cats, as long as we have the resources available to handle that smaller scale of emergency at the time.”

A retired attorney, McCallum maintain, “I have always believed in feeding back into the system. Some of the people that helped me get started in the legal system are no longer with us, so volunteering for and starting up this organization fits in well with my philosophy.

“I feel that it is important to assist and protect the welfare of the vulnerables in this world, and I hold that that list includes the elderly, the children, the mentally handicapped, the physically challenged and of course pasture livestock, defenseless against disastrous circumstances,” she said.

Initially a public defender, McCallum says she constituted “the last best hope and brand new friend” to some of her clients.

“I guess you could say that at that particular time in their life they were vulnerables too, because most of them thought it was them against the world as far as fighting their way upstream to gain any sort of salvation or justice.”

WASART, which was inspired by the mobilization of volunteers for animal rescues during Hurricane Katrina and the governmentally-declared King County flooding disasters in November and December 2006, puts its heart in the right place - but outfitting a large-animal rescue operation is not an inexpensive venture.

Because the fledgling, nonprofit undertaking is completely dependent upon donations, grants, government funding, endowments and will and estate contributions, any financial aid is appreciated.

“The top items on our list are collapsible cages, rescue slides and an $8,000 articulating demonstration model horse to practice rescues with,” McCallum said.

She is taking fundraising seriously, planning to delegate some of her responsibilities to vice president Greta Cook, a former livestock coordinator at Washington State University.

“While Greta is taking care of some of my duties, I will begin writing grants, to keep this ball rolling,” McCallum said.

Those interested in learning more about WASART can call McCallum at 360-886-7276 or visit

John Leggett can be reached at

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