Volunteers, rescuers recall saving pets during great flood

Volunteers, rescuers recall saving pets during great flood

LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Thanks goes out to the people who took time to rescue thousands of animals - big and small - right alongside with their families.

Some of the memorable ones involve animals that were left behind for one reason or another and still, someone found the time to save them.

Alone, stranded and scared. The great flood drove hundreds of animals to cling to their most basic instinct of survival.

"They were very afraid," said Livingston Parish SPCA feline coordinator Nattley Morein. "We just had to stay calm and realize it was just a bigger situation than all of us."

Evan Mativi, 22, was one the volunteers pulling animals out of the floodwaters. He and some friends set out in a boat floating down a submerged LA 431 to rescue families trapped in their homes. They did find a pair of siblings, young calves, barely keeping their heads above the water.

"It was up to their chins the second time we went out," Mativi said. "They were struggling and we got them on the boat. They were weak."

Mativi and his friends got the calves into a truck and took them to a cattle ranch to recover.

For others, the road home wasn't so easy. In the days and weeks after the floods, animal shelters were overwhelmed with pets. Some were rescued, while others were surrendered. They all had no place to go. When the kennels filled up, volunteers took in fosters. Morein housed more than 20 pets in her own home.

"They were just inundated with a number of animals they couldn't handle, so they were just setting up just tent areas to handle the number of dogs and cats coming in," Morein explained.

At the Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge, around 700 animals came in over the two weeks after the flood, more than double its normal capacity.

"Unfortunately, we saw a lot of owners have to surrender their pet because they couldn't bring them home," said CAA Outreach manager Jillian Sergio.

Still many families did whatever they could to keep their pets by their side, including staying at one of the few emergency shelters that allowed animals.

"You have to think about the mental health or the emotional health of the people and the pets as well," said Louisiana State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. "The pets do much better when they're with their owners."

The Ag Department oversaw the health and wellbeing of every animal, be it livestock or lap dog, that wound up at a state-run site. According to Strain, the daily census reached nearly 2,000 at one point. That included pets housed inside an emergency mobile shelter, outside the River Center. The rolling pet shelter was born from the harsh lessons of hurricanes Katrina and Issac. Built from a repurposed trailer, the shelter has stainless steel kennels that can hold more than 50 pets in climate-controlled comfort and safety.

"These are very vital and critical to the mission, especially when you move animals under less than ideal conditions," Strain added.

However, the most critical tools in rescuing animals were the hundreds of volunteers who housed, fed, and protected them while working around the clock to get them back home.

"When we finally saw an owner coming in looking for a pet, it kind of gave everybody a glimmer of hope, like this is why we're doing this," Strain explained.

"Everybody stepped up. Everyone was realizing it was a big community effort to get them back on track," Morein said.

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