Seeking shelter (and a bath) after storm; Sandy story not over for pets


The immediate crisis is over for most people and pets in Sandy's path.

Now the reality of being homeless for weeks or months is setting in. There's that long grey period between when families whose homes have been destroyed or badly damaged are moving out of shelters but don't have permanent quarters yet.

In Mississippi after Katrina there was only one option: turn over your pet to animal rescue groups that converged on Gulfport offering a ticket out for homeless pets. I watched as one family, who amazingly had saved a walrus from the aquarium that washed up under their porch, stand in line to relinquish a mother dog and her pups. The family was living with relatives and there were simply too many animals in the house.

This time around there are options to ensure displaced residents and their pets are reunited.

The ASPC and New York City have opened the first transitional shelter for pets.

The 20,000-square-foot emergency boarding center for animals in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.will provide free boarding and vet care for 700 dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for a month.

“We hope that a lot of people have been able to find alternative placement by now, but I really do anticipate there’s going to be a significant need,” the ASPCA's Tim Rickey, told the New York Times. Rickey is the senior director of the society’s field investigations and response team, which ran emergency shelters in Joplin, Mo., after the 2011 tornadoes.

“The whole point of setting up this emergency boarding is to prevent that,” Rickey said. “We don’t want people to make a decision in time of crisis. Let’s give you the time to focus on yourself, and if the end result, if they have to surrender the animal, it will be the reality for some, but we hope not for most.”

My friend Verena Dobnik, a reporter with the Associated Press in New York, in this story talked with storm survivors and the stressful choices people have to make after a disaster.

Meanwhile, social media circuits are jammed with Sandy pets news: airlifts are underway moving dozens of stranded cats and dogs out of the flood zone, including to places as far away as California;  pet groomers have flocked to the New Jersey shore bearing clippers and big hearts to offer free baths and trims for dirty dogs.

But there are still animals in need; some whose owners have vanished and others whose families do not yet have permanent housing and foster parents are needed. Check out this web site for more information if you are prospective foster parent or a storm victim who needs temporary shelter for your pet.

This site offers 13 ways to help Sandy cats (and dogs too).

(Photo/CBS 2)