Atlanta shelter takes in florida hurricane pets
By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press
September 14, 2004
ATLANTA — Without a home or a family, a Dalmatian named Dozer got aboard a plane to escape Florida's hurricanes and find a new home.
Dozer, an excited and friendly 2-year-old, and 133 other abandoned pets in Florida were flown into Atlanta on Sunday because Florida's animal shelters are overflowing with hundreds of dogs and cats left behind in the wake of Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Charley.
From there, the animals are being housed at the Atlanta Humane Society and the Houston Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for adoption.
"People were turning their animals in, saying, 'We don't know what to do with them,'" said P.J. Smith, spokeswoman for the Atlanta Humane Society. "People were dumping their pets, and they were in tears because these were their babies."
Many people in Florida lost their homes in the hurricanes, and they were forced to get rid of their pets because shelters and hotels wouldn't allow them.
"Most of them lost everything," said Jennifer Rowan, director of volunteers at the Humane Society of Sarasota County, Fla., which was filled with 230 homeless animals after Charley. "We wanted to get our animals out into safety."
That's when the Atlanta and Houston animal shelters stepped forward to take on the pets. Denver also handled a separate shipment.
The problem was finding a way to get the animals from central Florida to Atlanta, 450 miles away.
A Delta Air Lines pilot, Dan Gryder, volunteered to fly the pets out of the disaster area and into safety in his private 1938 DC-3.
"They were desperate for a vehicle large enough to do it in one shot," Gryder said. "The amount of care and effort they place on those animals is just astounding."
Now the animals are getting shots and calming down, Smith said. Most of them will be available for adoption Tuesday, and dozens of people have called about them. Seventeen pets stayed in Atlanta, and the others were driven from the airport here to Houston.
The Sarasota shelter needed to empty itself so it can take in more animals when Hurricane Ivan strikes, Rowan said.
"We wanted to relieve the strain on the shelters so they can be prepared for the next wave," said Martha Armstrong, senior vice president for domestic animal programs for the U.S. Humane Society. "At times like this we have to pull together."