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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Heroics

Heroic effort to help pets displaced by floods

A temporary emergency shelter set up at a fairgrounds in Fargo, North Dakota, to care for hundreds of anxious and nervous pets displaced by flood waters from the swollen Red River has begun to stand down.

As the water begins to recede, families are beginning to return home and find accommodations where they can keep their pets.

"We are in the process of demobilizing," Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society Executive Director Nukhet Hendricks told Love of Dogs on Friday. "We have about 22 animals left at the emergency animal shelter, and we are expecting all animals to be picked up today. We had 187 animals at its peak."

The shelter is being operated by FM Humane Society and Adopt-A-Pet, animal welfare organizations which serve the Fargo and Moorhead area. It has room to accommodate up to 300 animals and is being staffed around the clock by volunteers filled with "shear determination" to keep the stressed animals comfortable.

"People have entrusted us with their beloved furry family members and our job is to keep them safe until they can come back for them," Ms. Nukhet Hendricks said.

People living near the Red River have been forced to evacuate their homes in case makeshift sandbag levies are unable to hold back floodwater in the coming days. Many were unable to take along their pets.

The Minnesota Disaster Animal Coalition set up the shelter at the Red River Valley Fairground, where cats, dogs and horses received housing and care so far.

The circumstances have left many of the animals confused, but volunteers are doing their best to keep them calm, Ms. Hendricks said. "We are making sure we have steady care around the clock for these animals."

An army of volunteers - including local veterinarians; students in the Veterinary Technology Department from North Dakota State University; local citizens and animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, United Animal Nations, Code 3 and the Humane Society of Missouri - has come forward to help care, walk, feed and clean the animals.

"They are getting one-on-one attention that they need," Ms. Hendricks said. "We have experienced dog trainers to ensure each animal is getting individual attention. It is not just about feeding them. ...They are getting lap time and massages."

Despite the pampering, the displaced pets miss their families, Ms. Hendricks said. "We have visitation hours for the families, and they are encouraged if at all possible to come and see their animals."

Ms. Hendricks said the effort to care for the pets has been a "total team effort" between her humane society and Adopt-A-Pet officials Barb Gagnon and Jill Lamp. "These two woman have been so incredible."

The local PetSmart and Petco stores have donated supplies, and the animal care effort has been helped by "amazing support" from city officials, Ms. Hendricks. "Without them (local officials), this couldn't have happened. They have supported us in every way."

The emergency animal shelter was put together under the direction of the Cass County and City of Fargo Emergency Management officials.

Ms. Hendricks believes the outpouring of support from local and national organizations stems from the mishaps that occurred during Hurricane Katrina, when many in New Orleans had to abandon pets or refused to evacuate because they could not take their pets along to shelters.

"I think what happened with Katrina brought it people's attention about how important it is to provide shelter to our beloved pets," she said. "People will not leave their homes unless their pets are coming with them.... In order to provide safety for people, we have to provide safety for their pets."

The shelter has enough supplies to last for more than a week thanks to an outpouring of generosity from local citizens, Ms. Hendricks said. "The community has come to the rescue. Supplies and food or anything we need to run an emergency shelter came pouring in."

But setting up and operating the emergency shelter as well as caring for the animals is expensive, Ms. Hendricks said.

The humane societies are welcoming cash donations and gift cards for PetSmart, Petco, Walmart and Target, Ms. Hendricks said. "Our needs are changing continually. These donations will allow us to determine what is needed going forward accordingly."

Those wishing to make donations to help the displaced pets should visit or


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