Seeking a pet lost in Hurricane Matthew? Check with your local animal shelter

RALEIGH

State officials are advising people trying to recover pets they lost in Hurricane Matthew to visit their county’s animal shelter.

Hundreds of pets have been rescued and housed in shelters since Hurricane Matthew impacted the state Oct. 8. Officials in three eastern North Carolina counties still have temporary rescue shelters because the regular county shelters did not have enough space to accommodate the rescued animals.

“There are still many dogs, cats and other four-legged friends we are caring for more than a week after Hurricane Matthew impacted our state,” said Patricia Norris, director of the animal welfare section for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We want to make sure people are reunited with their pets as soon as possible because we know these animals are members of someone’s family.”

The animals recovered during Hurricane Matthew have been housed in the counties where they were rescued, unlike other major incidents in which regional shelters were established, Norris said. In some cases, people fleeing their communities during Hurricane Matthew were able to rescue their pets and find pet shelters near the evacuation shelters; but in other cases, swift water rescue crews or other response organizations saved the animals and they were separated from their families.

Staff in the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have helped coordinate the effort to establish temporary shelters and brought in help from other counties to relieve shelter staff in storm-affected counties.     

Norris and her colleagues at the state agricultural agency recommend that people looking for a lost pet start by visiting their county shelter or one of the rescue shelters. In most cases, it will be extremely difficult to reach someone by phone at the shelters, particularly those in eastern North Carolina that have been overwhelmed by rescued animals since the storm, Norris said.

To help speed the reunification process, people visiting a shelter should bring a copy of their pet’s rabies vaccination information, if they can find it. To more easily identify a pet, owners should also bring with them:

  • A photograph of the animal taken with family members
  • Any medical records
  • A veterinarian’s bill with the pet’s name
  • A microchip number

A total of five counties established temporary rescue shelters. Three of those shelters, in Lenoir, Pender and Pitt counties, have demobilized. The two remaining counties with temporary rescue shelters include:

  • Edgecombe County Animal Shelter, 2909 North Main St., Tarboro, behind the county health department. The temporary rescue shelter is expected to close today. As of Oct. 18, the rescue shelter was housing 100 dogs and six cats. Three trailers were brought in on the property to house the extra animals.
  • Robeson County Animal Shelter, 255 Landfill Road, St. Pauls. The temporary shelter was established next to the regular shelter. As of Oct. 18, the temporary shelter was housing 84 dogs and 16 cats rescued during the storm.

State officials also had the following tips for owners who are reuniting with their pets:

  • If your animal’s food was exposed to floodwaters, throw it out. Before taking your pet home, ask the shelter if they had any donated food they could spare.
  • Also, don’t let your pet drink any water around the home. Floodwaters could be contaminated with fuel, feces, decaying animal carcasses or other toxins. Remember pets, like people, should not consume contaminated water or food.
  • Don’t let your pets walk through flood waters. People will wash their hands, but often dogs and cats will lick their bodies to clean themselves.
  • Ensure downed power lines and debris have been cleared before allowing pets outside.
  • Check your yard for snakes or other dangerous animals.
  • Pets may be stressed or confused when they return home after a hurricane because their familiar landmarks could be gone. Be patient with your animal and keep them inside as much as possible as it will help them to re-acclimate if the surroundings are unfamiliar. Be sure to keep your pet on a leash when you go outside.    

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