Fed. gov, humane groups send help to disaster zones

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and national animal welfare groups have dispatched teams into the flood zones to help respond to the large numbers of pets and wildlife caught in Sandy's path.

Even with shelters in all storm-battered states taking in human and pet refugees, many inland communities were blindsided by the disaster.

Flooding wasn't just confined to the New Jersey and New York ocean shores, Dramatic images of pet rescues from water-logged communities along the Hackensack River were captured by photographers and posted on NBC Today's website.

The Humane Society of Atlantic County (Atlantic City) reports that the shelter was flooded, forcing the staff to squeeze animals into small cages positioned up high as they fought flood waters with pumps. Director Steve Dash stuck with the kitties and puppies through the storm and wrote this on Facebook.

In my 32 years at the shelter, I have never see anything like this. The entire facility flooded as I fought to keep everyone dry and the pumps and drains running as well as possible. The flood waters started to recede about 10:00 pm and I was able to pump out most of the building over the next five hours. The animals were in high cages and out of the flood water and were remarkably behaved while they were squeezed into small cages. It was an emotional moment when volunteers started arriving this morning. I can not thank them enough.

The shelter is taking donations of bleach, heavy duty trash bags, paper towels, Lowe's and Home Depot gift cards and cash donations at JC Motorsports on the White Horse Pike in Atlantic City. Do not send food because the shelter has nowhere to store now.

Meanwhile, The American Humane Association's Rescue Rig was sent to NJ from its base in Philadelphia to take in stranded pets.

Diane Robinson, a rescue team member with the American Humane Association, told NBC that many animal owners prepared early for Sandy’s arrival, but some people didn’t know where to go, which caused last-minute stress and panic.

“Two women arrived at our location in tears and panic after being told to evacuate quickly,” Robinson said. “They had a cat and a dog and didn’t know what they were going to do with the animals or themselves. They cried and profusely thanked us when we said we would shelter them. We were able to calm them down and reassure them the animals would be fine and they could come visit when it was safe and take them home when they were able.

“Today they picked up their kitten and dog. They cried as they hugged them and loaded them up for home. It was a short stay but when faced with the potential loss of your home, knowing your family is being cared for and safe is more important than anything.”

The Humane Society of the United States said today it sent teams to Monmouth County, N.J. and Nassau County, N.Y to provide staff, supplies and volunteers to care for dozens of displaced pets and to provide relief to county workers.

USDA said it has deployed animal care experts to provide pet-liaison services to FEMA in Philadelphia, APHIS Animal Care is coordinating with the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) and the National Alliance of State Animal and Agriculture Emergency Programs (NASAAEP) which are staging a distribution center at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY with supplies for companion animals.

Flooding was so severe at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium in Coney Island that the entire 14-acre facility was under water. The Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens zoos reported no serious damage.