Toledo-area shelter welcomes pets fleeing hurricane

A truckload of animal refugees arrived Thursday at the Toledo Area Humane Society just as the outer bands of Hurricane Florence began whipping the East Coast.

The 23 dogs and 15 cats were evacuated from the Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina in advance of the storm through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ transport program. They will find new homes in the Toledo area.

“Animal relocation has really become a key, life-saving role in these natural disaster relief efforts,” said Alyssa Fleck, spokesman for the ASPCA. “By doing that, we’re able to get animals out of evacuation zones and disaster-impacted communities. Then we have room in shelters locally for displaced animals.”

Stephen Heaven, president and CEO of the local humane society, said such predisaster measures were established after the chaos of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“In Katrina, shelters and rescue groups descended on New Orleans and were basically just going in and taking animals. There was no coordination,” he said. “What happened was that owned animals were being taken all over the country and no one knew where they were.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Pet refugees arrive at Toledo Area Humane Society

Animal refugees arrive at Toledo Area Humane Society

Moving out animals looking for homes makes space for ones in need after the hurricane — keeping those animals local and giving potential owners a much better chance to reunite with them.

“Katrina was a huge game changer for disaster response in general,” Ms. Fleck said. “But for animals in particular, collaborating and having an organized plan ahead of time, that’s a huge lesson that we learned after Katrina.”


Michelle Healey, with the Toledo Area Humane Society, hugs dog Boss as she walks him around after getting off the van during the arrival of cats and dogs from South Carolina.

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Animals aren’t the only ones in need.

Volunteers from several local organizations were also working Thursday to collect donations in preparation to deploy them to areas affected by Hurricane Florence.

“The water damage is, I think, going to be the worst,” said Linda Greene, President and CEO of Impact With Hope. Members of the Perrysburg-based organization have responded to hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis around the world. They’ve been to New Orleans, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Now, they’re collecting items to send to those in Florence’s path.

Volunteers pack donations into buckets with food, personal care, cleaning, and baby, dog, and cat items as part of the organization’s Bucket Brigade program.

“We don’t let things sit out in our warehouse,” Ms. Greene said. “It’s gone.”

Requested items include money for shipping costs, tarps, nonperishable food items, personal hygiene items, shovels, 55-gallon plastic bags, hand tools, work gloves, blankets, flashlights and batteries, and diapers.

Drop-off sites include the organization’s warehouse at 905 Farnsworth Rd., Waterville; McCord Road Christian Church in Sylvania, and Tole- do-area Tireman stores. A full list is available at impactwith​disaster-drop-off-locations.

The Town Center at Levis Commons is also collecting donations for Impact With Hope. Donations of the requested items can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday next to Arhaus Furniture, 2155 Levis Commons Blvd., in Perrysburg.

Across the country, the American Red Cross is preparing to help as many as 100,000 people in the areas affected by the hurricane, said Todd James, executive director of the American Red Cross North Central Ohio Chapter.

Mr. James said his chapter was organizing trained volunteers to deploy to the affected areas, including possibly Virginia and the Carolinas.

“We’ve had a few go out already, and I think we’ll see more and more over the next few days,” he said.

He also emphasized the need for people to continue to donate blood.

Meanwhile, the influx of animals at the humane society forced workers to get creative.

The shelter was already at capacity, so some of its current animals have been shifted into foster homes to help make more room for those from South Carolina, foster manager Kristen McCann said. Some animals are being kept in offices and other areas of the shelter where animals aren’t usually held.

But that might not be a problem for long. She said the community has already responded well to the organization’s call for foster homes and donations to help care for the animals.

“That’s going great, almost faster than I can keep up with,” Miss McCann said. “The vast majority of applications we’re receiving are from brand new foster homes. People want to help. A lot of times when disasters happen so far away, people aren’t sure how they can help and this is a way they can.”

Staff writer Kate Snyder contributed to this report.

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.