Animal Care staff and volunteers have been working especially hard these past several weeks to care for hundreds of cats and dogs displaced by Hurricane Irma. The shelter at 328 Furman Hall Road in Greenville has made room for 162 animals transported to Greenville from Florida and the Low Country of South Carolina by the Humane Society of the United States and Charleston Animal Society. Both organizations partner with Animal Care when animals need to be evacuated from areas affected by disasters. Shelters in these areas were cleared ahead of time of adoptable pets to make room for the expected influx following the storm.
In a separate endeavor, Animal Care staff and volunteers have worked alongside ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) staff and volunteers at a mega-emergency shelter in Duncan, S.C., providing medical care, cleaning cages, walking dogs, caring for cats, organizing supplies and providing enrichment treats for the animal refugees. At last count, more than 600 animals had been processed.
Animal Care veterinarian Dr. Margaret Hunt was among the team that assessed animal medical needs and signed off on health certificates so the animals could move on to other states where they will be put up for adoption. “These animals need a health certificate to get into another state,” she explained. “While some states have waived the requirement, most have not. And the sign-off must come from an accredited vet from South Carolina.”
A stroll around the Duncan facility on Sept. 21 revealed dogs from shelters in Beaufort County, South Carolina, Lake City, Florida, and Miami/Dade, Florida. Human volunteers tending to the canines and cats hailed from Virginia, Oregon, Missouri, Colorado, New York — and South Carolina.
“This Duncan operation has been an example of phenomenal teamwork,” said Brent Mead, Animal Care’s Volunteer Coordinator. “I’ve been so impressed by the fact that people from many different backgrounds and skill sets stepped away from their professional lives so they could help here. While some are at least partially reimbursed for their efforts, many pay their own way and use their vacation time.”
Jason Oneail, an ASPCA volunteer from New Hampshire, was on-site during the Duncan operation and estimates he has performed at least 700 hours of service this year with ASPCA rescues. Retired from the military after 30 years of service, he oversees the daily care of the animals. “ASPCA runs these operations with military precision,” he said. Everything is documented, including medical data, and spreadsheets track all the details.
An ASPCA on-site relocation group works with partners across the country to find places for the animals to go. ASPCA also had an animal behavior expert on-site to work with reactive dogs.
Dr. Hunt cautions that while the Duncan operation expects to complete its mission by Sept 24, she fully expects shelters like ours will continue to see an influx of animals as people are able to return to their homes and find that they can no longer live there. New housing options may preclude them from keeping their pets.
And what was her takeaway from the experience? “ASPCA and HSUS are great organizations and I think we’ve been generous in our support of their very worthwhile efforts. We learned that you have to be flexible in these situations. You don’t come in and tell people how you might do things, you simply ask: “What can I do to help?”