Friday, May 13, 2011

Mississippi residents grateful for emergency pet shelter

Shock, then gratefulness. These are the emotions residents around Natchez, Mississippi are experiencing when they learn UAN volunteers are running a free emergency shelter for pets living in the path of the flooding Mississippi River.

A kitten sleeps comfortably at the
emergency shelter in Natchez. 
“People are astounded that the shelter is free and there is no catch,” said UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, who flew to Mississippi to run the shelter and manage the UAN volunteer team. “Many of them are telling us that they know they will lose their homes in the flood.”

The Mississippi River reached a record 58.48 feet in Natchez on Wednesday and is expected to crest at 64 feet next week.

Janell said one woman who visited was very worried about being separated from her eight-year-old pit bull. They’ve been together since he was three weeks old and have never been apart.

“I brought her through the shelter and showed her how comfortable the dogs were,” Janell said. “She was crying the whole time because she was so relieved to know she can bring her best friend here and he will be taken care of.

Volunteers take an evacuee for a walk.
Indeed, the evacuated dogs and cats who have already been evacuated to the shelter – about 50 of them – are being spoiled rotten by the UAN volunteer team. Volunteers are walking dogs three or four times a day. They have comfortable bedding in their kennels and plenty of food and treats. Yesterday the volunteers made the trademark UAN “hammocks” for the cats.

Among the shelter residents are three litters of kittens so young they need to be bottle fed. The kittens were being cared for by foster parents who had to evacuate, and are now getting round-the-clock care from the volunteers.

Janell acknowledged the Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield for encouraging residents to evacuate their pets and inviting UAN and The Humane Society of the United States to set up and operate the shelter.

“Sheriff Mayfield is a smart man who is very community oriented and proactive for the animals,” Janell said. “He also knows from watching other disasters that people won’t evacuate if they don’t have a place to bring their pets.

UAN volunteer Jerry Lousteau
in the kitten "nursery"
Members of the community have been supportive and grateful for the emergency animal shelter. When word got out that volunteers could use a few ice chests to keep drinks cold, someone brought a refrigerator. And after someone said, jokingly, that it would be nice to have a rocking chair volunteers could sit in when bottle feeding the kittens, the president of the local humane society brought three of them.

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