More information has come in on the devastation of the Humane Society of Grand Bahama whose shelter was destroyed when a 20-foot storm surge put the shelter under five feet of water. This article focuses on what happens next to get the dogs and cats off the island and into a happy environment.
While 156 dogs and cats, including 26 pets the shelter was caring for by owners escaping Hurricane Dorian, survived, 105 dogs and 8 cats died. The staff of six were fortunate to escape with their lives.
I would like to tell the readers this is a ‘shortened’ article. You can read the entire article by The Miami Herald posted September 5. This update is just to hit the high points.
The shelter wasn’t supposed to flood
The Humane Society of Grand Bahama was built on a 10-foot elevation near the Atlantic Ocean in Freeport. The water came slowly then rose to at least five feet. The six staff members were forced to climb into a crawl space in the ceiling. They were able to take three dogs with them. Many of the cats were able to climb high enough to avoid drowning.
It took two hours for the water to recede enough for through a drain for the staff to swim to safety. The staff was able to escape late Monday or early Tuesday morning. Executive Director Tip Burrows stated
“We’ve been through several storms there with no flooding issues at all. So the water all of a sudden just started rushing in, they described it sort of like a raging river.”
Tip had to hitch a ride in a garbage truck after the storm had passed. Her Jeep couldn’t brave the surge. She arrived at the shelter to find the back of the building completely flooded. She waded in waist deep-water. All vehicles belonging to the shelter were lost.
“It felt like you’d been punched in the gut. We lost some dogs that various staff, including me, were super attached to. That’s hard. That’s really hard. The buildings are still standing but everything else is just absolutely ruined. We lost everything.”
Wings of Rescue, a California-based non-profit will be flying all of the animals out at one time. Mostly dogs are mentioned for this trip but the cats should be cared for as well. People have stepped up from across the country offering them homes. Ric Browde, CEO, says planes won’t be going in until it’s safe for them to do so. He stated
“I’m afraid of what we’re going to find over there. I don’t think anyone has a grip on how many humans died, not to mention how many dogs died and how many cats are there.”
As for now, Fort Lauderdale will be used as a base for humanitarian aid. It’s likely the animals will be taken off the island by transportation other than a plane and the plane will leave out of Fort Lauderdale.
Trying to cut through the red tape regarding health certificates
Browde is concerned the surviving dogs and cat may have been exposed to a bacterial disease called leptospirosis. It’s spread through contact with contaminated water.
There’s also the U.S. Department of Agriculture policy that animals brought into the country for commercial sale or adoption must be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza virus. They must also appear healthy. The health certificate and rabies certificate has to be issued by a veterinarian from the country of export or by the federal government from the country of import.
“We hope to very soon be announcing how we’re going to be bringing these pets out. We have to get these pets all vaccinated before they come into the country.”
What happens next
Wings of Rescue will be flying animals out of Grand Bahama as soon as the red-tape issue is settled. Also, Jacquelyn Petrone, the founder and executive director of HALO Rescue, a no-kill shelter based in Sebastian has secured charter planes to leave Fort Pierce for the airport in Freeport as soon as the Bahamian authorities give them clearance. The airport isn’t available yet since it suffered damage so they’re trying to make use of boats.
Shelters and rescues throughout the United States have stepped up to take in as many shelter dogs and cats out of Florida to make space for the ones who may have to stay at Florida shelters for a short while before being sent out of the state. Remember, not only were the shelter animals impacted, it’s frightening to think of how many animals will be found wandering or dead.
A lot of people ask about the dogs and cats who went transported away from Hurricane Dorian. These aren’t people’s wanted pets. They’re pets who were either strays or owner surrenders who hadn’t yet found a home in the shelter they were staying at. This is a great way to get them a good chance for a forever home.
Donate if you can
GoFundMe (this one is legit) has already raised over $67,000
Updates can be found on their Facebook page here. There has also been a suggestion for a fundraiser to be started for the staff who risked their lives to stay with the animals. Five of them lost their homes.
If you’d like to send donated supplies, check with agencies in your area. Supplies are being brought down from almost every community.