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June 07, 2011

No Rest for Animal Rescuers as Tornadoes, Flooding Continue

The last few weeks have seen so many lives—human and animal—turned upside down as a result of record flooding and tornadoes, and today more communities are bracing for high waters. Our Animal Rescue Team has been busy traveling to Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri to help rescue and shelter hundreds of pets, as well as assisting with disaster response in South Dakota and Montana.

Our staff at the emergency pet shelter in Joplin, Mo., sent this update and video from the scene:

It has been a little more than two weeks since a monumental tornado ripped through Joplin, and the overwhelming feelings of shock and helplessness are just beginning to fade. Hope, collaboration, and a commitment to rebuilding are taking root in this devastated city, thanks in part to nearly 100 responders who have come to the aid of the animals displaced by the storm.

The Humane Society of the United States' Animal Rescue Team is partnering with the ASPCA and has been working alongside various local and national groups from all over the country to care for more than 1,000 animals who have come through the emergency animal shelter since the tornado.

Lysa Buehler, shelter manager for the Joplin Humane Society, has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. “This is the most organized effort I’ve ever seen; the whole thing just makes your heart sing. This rescue operation is a much-needed relief from the sadness that has affected us all.”

One man in definite need of relief was Murray Fields, whose home was destroyed in the storm. Our team has been touched by Murray’s story and dedication to his four-legged companions. After braving the storm, Murray began calling out for his dogs. Murray’s calls were returned by silence and he began to lose hope of finding his pets alive. Then several good Samaritans began lifting walls off of the rubble and miraculously uncovered three of the missing dogs.

Although they were quite shaken up, Pinkie, Skunk Nose, and Mitzie were unharmed and are now being cared for at the emergency animal shelter. While he is now busy rebuilding his family’s life, Murray comes by the shelter every evening to comfort and play with his dogs. Seeing these dogs cuddle into Murray's chest and cover him in happy kisses is the ultimate reward.

Each day more and more animals are being reunited with their families—more than 400 dogs and cats have already gone home since the storm. The HSUS is dedicated to continuing our assistance to the people and pets of Joplin.

Meanwhile in South Dakota, where many people are evacuating due to flooding, we’re assisting with an emergency animal shelter in Yankton. In Massachusetts, the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society was seriously damaged by the tornado last week, and The HSUS is sending a $5,000 grant to help them rebuild. We’ll continue to help animals in the wake of these tragic disasters, joining with other animal protection groups to care for pets and help reunite them with their families.

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