While dozens of Philadelphia rescue workers are in the Carolinas to assist with Hurricane Florence relief efforts, a different local rescue crew has already made three trips. It's Wags Rescue & Referral, a Southampton-based animal rescue that regularly brings shelter dogs and cats from the South to Pennsylvania to be fostered and adopted.
"One of the things that happens is the shelters schedule euthanasias ahead of the storm," said Amy Myers, one of several volunteers who rushed to shelters in the evacuation zone to get ahead of the crisis. They brought back 51 dogs, including a litter of puppies that were just two days old, and nine kittens.
At the Cumberland County Animal Control offices near Fayetteville, N.C. — an area where significant flooding is expected — they found shelters filled beyond capacity.
Wags was founded after Hurricane Katrina and adopts out 1,200 dogs each year, most of them from partner shelters in the South, Myers said. Some are hunting dogs that aren't as fast as they used to be; others may have been abandoned by people who run dog-fighting rings. Still others are from a shelter in North Carolina near Fort Bragg, left by military families who are transferred and are unable to take dogs with them.
But hurricane season brings an urgent need, she said. They may make another trip south over the weekend if conditions decline.
"I guess it's kind of a circle: People anticipate evacuating and can't figure out how they can take their dogs, so people were surrendering dogs in greater numbers. They were so stuffed; they had dogs in the offices at the shelter," Myers said.
The dogs are now in foster care or in donated space at Horsham Veterinary Hospital. Others are likely to go into care at the State Correctional Institution Chester, where inmates care for and train dogs. Inmates keep dogs on average for four to six weeks, training and house-breaking them, before they're adopted out.
"It's hurricane season, so we always try to open our doors to dogs that need a place to go," SCI-Chester spokeswoman Madeline Quinn said.