Fatal Oklahoma tornado claims countless animal lives


Veterinary response engages amidst chaos of destruction.

An 85-by-200-foot indoor arena once stood in this bare space at Celestial Acres equine sports facility in Moore, Okla. There were also four barns with stalls, horse walkers, turnouts and paddocks. A spokesman with the property that included Orr Family Farms confirmed that all employees and 34 horses survived the deadly tornado that devastated Moore on May 20. But the number of equine fatalities from the storm may be more than 50. Photo courtesy of Orr Family Farm

Twenty minutes from Moore, Okla., Dustin Brown, DVM, and the staff at the Animal Medical Center—Midwest City took cover as the deadly EF5 tornado carved a line of destruction around them. “That tornado lifted right before it got to our clinic,” Brown says. After it passed, “we came back and started trying to do what we can.”

He headed to Moore. “It’s hard to get in or out,” he says of both phone lines and roads. Brown attended to countless horses injured in the storm—he says they saved as many as they could.

The Orr Family Farm, an agricultural tourism destination and home to Celestial Acres, a large sports training facility, sustained heavy damage from the tornado. A spokesman for the property says there are animal casualties, but “I don’t know if it’s one or 100,” Tony Vann said Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, Vann still did not have a confirmed number of casualties, but did say 34 horses survived.

Brown saw countless numbers of fatally injured horses. “There’s no telling how many horses we had to put down yesterday. It was horrible,” he says. “A lot of shattered legs, severe lacerations.”

He says there are a lot of dogs and cats in need of care as well. Brown’s staff at Animal Medical has treated a few. “It’s basically just triage and help the ones we can,” he says. Scores of animals are missing.

Brown says huge metal electricity towers “just snapped in half—vehicles just twisted around trees. Even the grass and everything was gone,” he says. “It was a very powerful tornado that went through. There’s not much that could survive something like that.” As emergency crews continued to sift through the rubble today, the death toll counted at least 24 people—including 10 children.

Brown planned to head back into Moore, but he says right now, it’s chaos. “The situation’s gonna get a lot worse,” he says. “There are a lot of injured animals.”

To help, organizations such as the Animal Resource Center in Oklahoma City is accepting donations on its website to help support the influx of animals as a result of the tornado. The Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Services is providing medical services for animals injured in the tornado. Donations to support the relief effort can be made online at or by calling (405) 385-5607.

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