Furry friends are getting some special care after losing their homes to flood waters and so are their owners.
At the Greenbrier Humane Society, staffers and volunteers alike are doing their best to help traumatized flood victims—including those with four legs.
Not unlike people, many of these rescued animals—including dozens of dogs and cats—also needed time to adjust after going through the flood, said managing director Mereda Richmond.
“Although we don’t know what these dogs were like pre-crisis, we have several dogs that we could tell were bonded. And this is a different type of environment for them, especially the ones that are from the flood area whether or not they are actual flood victims,” she said.
Dogs that were family pets from the flood area tend to be rather timid, and just stay at the back of the cages.
Volunteers are helping by walking the dogs, playing and generally help resocialize them.
A pair of dogs are being kept together in a bigger cage “because we felt this is something that would help them emotionally as they are waiting for their family to try and find them,” she said.
Cats also got the special care needed for a new life.
“We have a family’s 10 cats and they are here only temporarily until they all have a place to stay. But these cats are very sad, because we don’t have an area large enough for them to be together. So some of them are separated from the other feline family members as well as their humans, and it has been tough on them,” she said.
“You can see that they are truly mourning the loss of life that they are familiar with.”
Numbers continue to add up, even as the flood waters disappeared, including seven cats that arrived recently from flood affected areas.
“Since the flood we have had almost 150 animals come through our doors, whether to just temporarily house them, strays or normal owner surrenders. We estimate that 60 to 70 percent of those animals have been from the flood affected areas,” she said.
“But that doesn’t count the ones that come in and go out on the same day, when we scan them for a microchip and we are able to get them back with their families. Just in the last few days we’ve reunited five to eight animals with their owners and get them back home,” she said.
Concerned individuals and organizations – across the state and nation – have done an amazing job of donating needed supplies.
“It has been amazing, and we have cried some tears of joy just seeing how much others care about our animals and their needs,” she said.
Even the federal and state government helped facilitate finding “forever homes” for the pets who need a new place to live. The state Department of Agriculture helped three shelters get things they needed – such as collapsible cages – to deal with the influx of animals.
FEMA has helped coordinate efforts with national animal welfare organizations such as the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition.
The Humane Society of the United States facilitated the transfer of 62 animals that had been in the Nicholas County Animal Shelter to two shelters in upstate New York.
And more help is on the way to animal shelters from state rescue organizations.
Stacey Kenny, an organizer with the Paws Crossed Dog Rescue organization, and other team members spent last weekend traveling south from the Eastern Panhandle to deliver items they’d collected.
Hundreds of items including kitty litter, cleaning supplies, dog treats, toys and beds, were delivered to Clay County for distribution.
It was an emotional time, especially when it came to talking with flood victims.
“There is so much need here, and there will be for years to come,” she said.
Group member Michele Barnhart was personally touched because her brother lost his home in the flood.
This “tiny group of very passionate volunteers” is just two year old but already used to working with other state rescue groups. Derick Dearing and Walter Golden are co-founders.
Raleigh, Logan, Mercer, and Mingo counties are some of the places they had previously helped.
“Basically every dog we pull is at risk of being euthanized, and we have previously dealt with some of the southern counties in the state where they tend to have over populated shelters,” she said. “We believe this is an especially important time for us to help make a difference because this is just heartbreaking for so many families.”
The flooding has magnified the overcrowding situation.
“Plus these shelters are working to get pets back with their owners so we want to help however we can, because we knew in our hearts we wanted to do something more – especially now. But we wanted to get some facts and information first so that we could get what is needed and get it to those shelters,” she said.
Individuals as well as organizations are already supporting this effort including Animal Advocacy of West Virginia, PIG’s Animal Sanctuary, Animal Welfare Society, Reach Out Rescue Resource, JC Penney’s, and Martins Food in Martinsburg, Charles Town and Winchester, Virginia.
Helping even just one animal makes it all worthwhile.
“When you become a small part of finding homes for sweet and trusting animals, hope and love are restored in your heart,” she said.