Sarah and Joe Merkelbach experienced the 2016 Blue Cut Fire in the Cajon Pass, so they knew it was important to show up at John and Dawn Fiedler’s Phelan property on Saturday.
The Merkelbachs wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get their four horses microchipped.
They weren’t alone. Several horse owners made the trip the Fiedlers’ to have the tiny integrated circuit about the size of a grain of rice inserted beneath the skin of their animals
They wished to avoid what other horse owners who have endured wildfires such as Blue Cut and 2018′s Camp Fire encountered: difficulty in identifying lost or abandoned horses.
With assistance from the Victor Valley Animal Protective League, the Fiedlers offered to have the event on their property. The couple said they wanted to combat the growing number of unidentifiable lost and stolen horses.
An animal that has had a microchip implanted can be identified when a scanner is passed over its skin. The scanner emits a radio signal that allows for identifying the horse by name and the owner’s address and phone number.
The Merkelbachs, of Oak Hills, said they encourage everyone who owns a horse to have the animal microchipped. During Saturday’s event, owners were charged $12 to have a horse microchipped.
During Blue Cut, Sarah Merkelbach said, “We had only been living in the house for three months and we didn’t have a trailer yet.”
The possibility their horses could be lost and not identified was real. “I was nervous and scared as hell,” she said.
Dawn Fiedler said she and her husband decided to take action after learning how many horses could not be identified following the camp fire, which decimated the community.
“A lot of people had trouble getting their horses back and proving who they belonged to,” Dawn Fiedler said.
Phelan resident Kim Taylor, a veterinarian technician, was on hand inserting the microchips. While the needle is larger than a typical vaccination needle, Taylor said the process takes “a split second” and requires no downtime on the part of the horse.
“Stealing horses is still a big problem. We are trying to make sure the auctions start scanning horses because there is no way for them to know if they are stolen,” Taylor said.
Phelan resident Amy Mancinetti, 51, brought her two horses, April and Dixie, to get chipped. She showed up at the Fiedlers because she said she wanted to be a responsible pet owner.
“The fires and the evacuations last year scared me enough to buy the chips,” Mancinetti said.
Getting her horse Starfall chipped at the event, Hesperia resident Amber Dornis, 32, said she is glad to now have “peace of mind, in case he gets loose or someone steals him.”
Hesperia resident Kathy Arch, a friend of the Fiedlers who assisted at the event, said she hopes the microchipping “will bring awareness to the shelter so they will start scanning horses for chips.”
Fiedler said they may hold another microchipping event in the future, depending on the outcome of the first event.