On Sept. 13, when many people in the Carolinas were fleeing the path of Hurricane Florence, the North Shore Animal League America’s Rescue Team was heading south.
In the days preceding the storm — and in the weeks following it — the Rescue Team has rescued more than 100 pets from the storm-ravaged Carolinas while providing pet owners in the South with much-needed supplies.
“I’ve been here six years, and we’ve done this numerous times,” said Cindy Szczudlo, the Rescue Team director who is overseeing operations from Port Washington. “When we saw this storm coming, we knew we had a lot of partners in that area, so we reached out.”
Just last year, North Shore Animal League helped transport pets during Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey. Szczudlo said these pets are abandoned by owners who might not be able to bring their dogs or cats with them when they flee a storm.
“It’s especially a problem in the South, where pet overpopulation is a much bigger issue due to the lack of spaying and neutering,” she said.
The first trip took the Rescue Team to Martinsville, Virginia, a small city near the North Carolina border. Twenty-nine dogs and puppies were brought back to Port Washington to make space in Martinsville for more animals arriving from North Carolina. Among the rescued were two dogs who had just given birth to a litter of puppies.
Ensuing trips have brought back even more pets. After the storm, the Rescue Team went to Orangeburg, South Carolina, to bring back even more animals who had been rescued from the storms and flooding.
“Since the storm hit, we had a lot of people dumping animals,” Szczudlo said. “There was a fisherman who found 11 kittens. He pulled them out of the floodwaters.”
All of the animals rescued from the Carolinas — 109, by Szczudlo’s estimate — are being groomed and receiving veterinarian care at the North Shore Animal League America campus in Port Washington. Since these puppies, kittens, dogs and cats were abandoned, they will be available for adoption.
While Szczudlo has continued to monitor the situation from New York, rescue coordinator Karla Agostinello and Ted Moriates have made the 1,600-mile round trip to Orangeburg and back to bring supplies and pick up more pets. The Rescue Team is planning on returning this week to bring more supplies and rescue more pets from North Carolina, namely Fayetteville, which has been slammed with flooding since the hurricane.
“We won’t be heading back to New York until the mobile unit is empty and we’ve done all we can to provide some sort of relief,” Agostinello said during her last trip down to the Carolinas. “These people and their animals have been through so much in the past few days — they’re reeling. We’ll be here for as long as it takes and we’ll be bringing animals back with us to help make room for more animals who were separated from their families during the storm.”
Each trip has brought thousands of pounds of supplies for both the two- and four-legged residents of the Carolinas.
“We collected donations of pet food, litter, paper towels, garbage bags, water … we filled an entire mobile unit and sent it,” said Kathy Lynn, the director of communications for the organization.
North Shore Animal League America is continuing to collect donations, which Szczudlo said were greatly appreciated by the people and pets affected by the storm.
“We brought 20 brand new dog crates to Orangeburg and the director started crying because she hadn’t seen a new crate in six years,” she said.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.