When Hurricane Mathew roared along the East Coast, with its roof-high, record breaking storm surges and consequent floods, it drowned Louisiana and the Carolinas in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. There has been millions of dollars’ worth of property damage, and tragically, some of the residents or visitors caught in its path lost their lives. Most were evacuated to shelters on higher ground, but in the press of both time and space were unable to bring their pets, leaving them behind to fend as best they could. Thousands of cats and dogs, domestic, stray and feral, were left stranded in the flood waters, trying to find a place to survive. Thousands of people were saved by government and volunteer emergency rescue teams. What is the emergency rescue team for animals?
Many animal rescue groups across the south leapt into action, including Asheville’s Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. Eric Phelps, Rapid Response Team Manager, was there and gave an in-person description of the conditions and what it’s like to be part of such a rescue effort: “We’ve done this kind of work before in other floods but we’d never seen anything like this. It was very very bad. The town of Nichols was completely underwater, with floods up to the rooftops. We were asked by a woman to rescue a tabby cat from an attic and he was so glad to see us he jumped right into my arms. We pulled cats from a boat in a parking lot. Four semi-feral cats were huddled on a ramp to a house, so terrified they jumped into the water when the boat approached. We had to chase them down to rescue them. Sometimes people forget about the cats.”“…we’d never seen anything like it. It was very very bad.” Eric Phelps Click To Tweet
“Most of these animals had been without food or water for seven days,” said Jackie Teeple, Marketing Manager at Brother Wolf. She described the overwhelming numbers of animals, primarily cats and dogs, which were rescued, brought to the shelter here in Asheville, or transported to other shelters around the country. “There were literally thousands,” she said. “We’re very grateful to Pilots n Paws for their volunteer pilots who transport rescues. They transported many of these pets to their network of shelters throughout the country. Many were brought back to the Brother Wolf Adoption Center on Glendale Avenue in Asheville.”
Audrey Lodato, Shelter Manager, said “The number of intakes we had in just one weekend was overwhelming. We took in 10 dogs and cats from South Carolina on Saturday, and 23 on Sunday from Louisiana.” She described the lengthy process of intake, including description, identification, seeing if there is any ownership i.d. such as a tag (usually not), taking a health assessment (most are not spayed or neutered). “The worst part,” she said, “is because they were standing in chest-high water for seven days without food or water, they were not only emaciated, but they were covered with black mold, and had to be washed with an antiseptic.”
Teeple added, “Some have injuries from the flood waters, and many have heartworm, but if people can help us get room in the shelter to save more animals, we pay the medical bills for those fosters.”
Floodwaters are receding in some areas, but rescue efforts, and the care of the animals rescued, does not recede. Denise Bitz, Founder and President of Brother Wolf, said Matthew and previous disasters have cost the shelter $350,000.
More information can be found at https://www.bwar.org/matthew-one-week/ to find out how to help. Video can be found on the Brother Wolf Facebook page.