On Thursday, after five days in temporary quarters, animals at the Franklin County Humane Society shelter have moved back home.
Last Saturday afternoon, employees at the Frankfort, Kentucky, facility, knew trouble was brewing.
Water began seeping in through the front door of the facility, which is located about 25 yards from the Kentucky River.
“We tried sweeping and squeegeeing it out, and nothing mattered,” said Shelter Manager Diann Wellman.
Wellman added that problem wasn’t so much that the river was flooding, but that the shelter’s 40-year-old drains couldn’t handle the sudden heavy load of water.
Despite employees’ and volunteers’ efforts to keep the building dry, it quickly became clear that they had no choice but to evacuate the animals from the quickly rising flood waters.
Wellman, who has a background in animal disaster relief, contacted city, county and farm bureau officials, and everyone cooperated to get the shelter’s four-legged charges to safety.
The cats were moved to the Frankfort Convention Center, while the dogs were relocated to the Franklin County Farm Bureau Pavilion in nearby Lakeview Park.
While the dogs had room to run at their temporary home, the cats, said Animal Care Specialist Geneva Smith, were much more cooped up. At the shelter, they usually get to wander around cat towers and indoor trees to stretch their legs.
“The stress on the animals was the hardest thing,” said Angie Stewart, a veterinary tech for the shelter. “They are used to a certain routine, and we tried to keep them on it.” But in spite of — or perhaps because of — the animals’ trauma, numerous volunteers showed up to walk the dogs and play with the cats.
While the animals were in their refugee quarters, the shelter staff gave the building a deep cleaning and pressure washing to ensure that the facility would be safe once their charges returned home.
Despite the stress on both shelter staff and animals, Wellman says the relocation has had some unexpected benefits.
“We’ve gotten our animals out in the public. A lot of people can’t make it to the shelter,” she said — and this has led to quite a few more cats and dogs being adopted and fostered out.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept through Alabama on Wednesday afternoon, things are not looking so bright. In addition to the tragic loss of life and livelihood, many people also lost their animal companions. Some shelters and rescues have suffered damage, and the shelters that are still standing have been inundated with animals from the disaster-struck areas.
In order to help reunite people with their animal companions, a group of Alabama rescuers launched a Facebook page called Animals Lost & Found from the Tornadoes in Alabama. Through the page, they are also raising funds for Have a Heart Animal Rescue and Adoption to help with medical expenses for injured animals as well as boarding and food. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society has been listing lost pets on its website and provided some tips for how to best search for a lost pet. The Shelter Pet Project’s Facebook page is featuring adoptable animals from Alabama in an effort to help shelters make room for four-legged refugees so they can eventually be reunited with their owners.