When extreme flooding swept through eastern Kentucky, pets and stray animals were also affected, losing their homes and shelters.
Soon, safe houses and animal shelters were overwhelmed with displaced injured animals that needed immediate medical attention.
The Kentucky Humane Society has been in eastern Kentucky conducting animal rescues in an effort to transport displaced animals to animal shelters in Floyd and Pike counties.
Kayla Paige, a caretaker at the Floyd County Animal Shelter, said the shelter took in 10 dogs, some of whom were seriously injured.
“The Red Cross called us and told us that some people had to give up their pets because they no longer had homes, or because the homes they found didn’t allow pets,” Paige said. “We take those animals from the Martin Community Center. Then there were those who were injured and needed medical help, so we asked Safe Hands Rescue in Floyd County to help us.”
Paige said someone found a kitten in a ditch and brought it in and there were two seriously injured dogs that also needed immediate medical attention.
“Safe Hands Rescue has been phenomenal in helping care for these animals, giving them the care they need,” he said. “One dog lost some teeth and had injuries to his face, and another had a stab wound to his chest that needed stitches.
“These animals are so precious and they are so sad,” he said. “We love them and they need attention. We even have some who are afraid of water, they just stand and shiver at bath time because they’re traumatized.”
Safe Hands Rescue-Floyd County founder and director Lynne Bengston said the rescue relieves overcrowding at animal shelters in eastern Kentucky and gets animals treated at an area veterinary clinic.
“When the flood hit the area, we jumped into action,” said Bengston. “We started accepting pets and animals, injured or not, that needed a place to stay and/or needed care to get back to health. One dog we took in had severe head trauma. We have an account open at Highland Veterinary Clinic and they have been caring for the animals when we brought them in.”
Bengston said Safe Hands Rescue delivered pet food and supplies to many areas of hard-hit Floyd County.
“We’ve been in holes at Garrett and Wayland where everything was completely decimated,” Bengston said. “We also bring supplies and food to Jenny Wiley State Park where people are camping because they don’t have pet food either. Some people have been making the difficult decision to relinquish their pets, and we know it’s a difficult decision.”
Bengston said animals that were rescued from the floods aren’t allowed to leave the shelters, but their owners have a better chance of finding them.
“What we’re doing is moving surrendering owners and areas that don’t flood out of the shelters to free up space in the shelter,” Bengston said. “The Pike County Animal Shelter has animals in temporary housing that are trying to get their pets back. We plan to deliver 93 animals to Minneapolis to find new homes for them.”
Bengston said Safe Hands will take care of the medical needs of pets, not just those affected by the flood.
“We had a gentleman whose dog lost an eye and the brain was exposed due to this injury,” Bengston said. “This man was heartbroken because he had no money for veterinary care. He was going to give up his dog after learning that we would bear the expenses. We told him that we even paid for the spaying and neutering, and that no one was going to take his dog.”
Guardians of Rescue, a New York-based animal rescue charity, has been providing pet food and supplies in areas like Virgie, Elkhorn City, Wayland and Garrett.
Guardians of Rescue’s Nicki Dawson said the organization deploys to disaster areas across the country to help animals in need and has seen stories of hope and heartbreak.
“An elderly person with an oxygen tank was sitting on her porch in Virgie because she didn’t want to leave her house and her dog sat next to her,” Dawson said. “One team was cleaning up mud at her house, another team was on the ground with hot food and she asked if her dog was hungry. He covered his face with his hands and started crying as he said thank you for offering my dog some food. I’m telling you; people love their animals.
“Our work can be heartbreaking, but it’s rewarding because animal lovers and pet owners appreciate what we do, and we want to help those who are most vulnerable, and a lot of times those are animals,” he said.
As the floodwaters continued to recede, a population of pet owners in the Elkhorn City and Virgie area found that they were unable to keep their pets because their living conditions had changed.
The Pike County Animal Shelter opened its doors to those displaced animals, and they are still housed there.
Pike County Animal Shelter Director Lorrie Goff said the shelter took in 18 animals as people lost their homes.
“It really has been a sad time for our people here in eastern Kentucky,” Goff said. “We have picked up 18 stray dogs from the Virgie and Elkhorn City area due to the flooding. When pet owners’ circumstances change, they can pick up their pets from the shelter. Guardians of Rescue have stopped by a couple of times with supplies and dog food to help us out here, and it’s been greatly appreciated.”