Hurricane Sandy: Animal League America Provides Relief
Animal League America conducted emergency rescue and relief efforts for the animals and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. After opening our emergency animal shelter on Sunday, October 28 at Mitchel Field in Nassau County, NY, over 400 animals that were displaced when their owners had to evacuate their homes were taken in.
In addition to providing shelter, we made sure that every animal received food, water, medical treatment and, just as important, compassionate care until they could be reunited with their families.
Our Mobile Rescue Units were also out in storm-damaged communities distributing free dog and cat food, that Purina PetCare Company has generously donated.
Last year, when Hurricane Irene struck the tri-state region, Warren and Kate Sherwood heeded the mandatory evacuation orders and left their Long Beach residence.
Fortunately, Irene caused only minor damage to their home. But they were not as lucky this time around.
“Even though we were in the evacuation zone, after last year wasn’t so bad we decided to ride this one out and stay home,” says Warren.
But Hurricane Sandy surpassed even their biggest fears.
“I’ve never in my life seen anything like it,” says Kate. “We barely got out of our house in time. The water is at least five feet deep.”
As a precaution, the Sherwoods had booked a hotel in a nearby town away from the flood zone; they managed to leave Long Beach Monday as the storm was at its worst and drive to the hotel. They snuck their two cats, Schwartz and Scooter, into the building, but had to bring them back to their Long Beach home after a few days–a decision that scared them to their core.
“Even though the cats were on the second floor, we couldn’t bear the thought of them being in the cold and dark,” says Kate. The couple also feared that they might be prohibited from visiting their home once electric and gas repair work begins.
On Sunday, November 4, the Sherwoods brought Schwartz and Scooter to the emergency animal shelter at Mitchel Field, where they know their beloved cats will be safe.
“The truth is, we feel very lucky,” says Warren. “We all got out safely and are alive.”
Five houses on their block were burned to the ground, which makes them feel even more grateful, despite the severe damage to their home.
“We cannot thank all of you enough,” says Kate to the team of staff and volunteers as tears welled in her eyes. As she gave a big hug to one of the animal rescue workers, she adds, “Knowing that our cats are safe, warm and loved makes all the difference in the world.”
Helping During a Difficult Time
It’s an old but true saying: There’s no place like home. Everyone displaced by Hurricane Sandy knows the truth of those simple five words in a profound way, as many have lost nearly everything to the storm’s devastating power.
Many of North Shore Animal League America’s staff and volunteers have been affected by Sandy, but their dedication to caring for animals in need is as powerful as ever.
“Just like humans, animals are attached to their home environments, and being in a new location isn’t easy for them,” says Kirsten Dudick, a kennel associate at Animal League America who has been caring for animals at the emergency animal shelter at Mitchel Field nearly every day since the storm hit. “But we spend a lot of time getting to know each animal, making them feel as comfortable as possible–not just physically, but emotionally, too.”
Kirsten and all of the rescue team members grow very attached to the animals in their care. “We really do fall in love with all of them,” says Kirsten, adding that they also develop close relationship with the families and individuals who have entrusted them with their pets’ care.
“I feel a very strong sense of responsibility to these people, and I’d never let them down,” she says. “When they arrive here to reunite with their animals, it’s the best feeling in the world. They thank us, but I tell them it was a privilege to have helped in any way during a really difficult time for them.”
Customer Service At Its Best
During a typical day, Greg Walunas handles numerous phone calls that come in to North Shore Animal League America, with people asking questions on dozens of issues–everything from adoption advice to pet health care questions to behavioral issues. Whether someone needs advice on house training their new puppy, what medicine can help clear a cough, or how to adopt that adorable kitten whose photo they saw on our website, Greg and the rest of the team in the customer service department are often the first people they reach.
“It’s our job to figure out what each caller needs, and if we can’t answer their question, we direct them to the staff person at Animal League America who can,” says Greg, our senior customer service representative. Greg knows the ins and outs of virtually every department at Animal League America, and he has provided valuable information and help to thousands of callers since he joined the organization.
When Greg’s workday is done, he often heads over to our adoption center to volunteer during his off hours, helping care for the hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens who are up for adoption at Animal League America 365 days a year.
“Spending time with the animals is my favorite part of my day,” says Greg. “And the best moments of all are when a formerly homeless animal meets the individual or family who will take them home and give them a lifetime of love.”
As Animal League America and its partners in animal welfare continue to rescue and care for animals displaced by Hurricane Sandy, Greg has spent nearly every day at the emergency animal shelter at Mitchell Field, where over 200 animals have found shelter since the storm hit on Sunday, October 28.
Whether he’s tasked with walking, feeding, or soothing animals at the shelter, Greg puts the same high level of compassion and dedication into the job that he does during a normal workweek at our Port Washington, NY, headquarters.
“I know it’s hard for people to leave their pets here, especially during such a difficult time, when many have lost their homes and all their possessions,” says Greg. “Their animals may be the only thing they have left in the world, and that’s why we treat them as if they were our own. I was so lucky during the storm–my family and my pets are safe. The least I can do is make sure every animal here is given the love and care it deserves.”
“Everyone I Cared About was Suffering”
Cassandra Sclafani, 23, is a second-year Teach for America eighth grade Spanish teacher in Hartford, CT whose hometown of Bayville, Long Island, was hard hit by the storm. The Saturday morning before the storm hit, her mother drove out to Hartford to weather the hurricane – and brought along Patches, the seven-year-old white Mutt-i-gree with gray patches of fur whom her family had adopted from Animal League America as a kitten. Cassandra was happy to see her mother and beloved family pet and to know they were safe in her company for the week that followed, but she also had what she calls “a guilty conscience” about being safe and warm while the rest of her extended family and everyone else she knew back in Long Island were struggling in the aftermath of the hurricane.
So Cassandra did some research to find out what kinds of items – such as flashlights, baby supplies, etc. – would be most needed in hurricane-torn communities and organized a supply drive at her school, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. The supply drive also included pet food. She knew that Animal League America would be helping people during such a crisis, too – and she wanted to support them in their rescue efforts. After learning about Animal League America’s upcoming participation at a supply distribution center in Freeport (which included pet food donated by Purina PetCare Company), Cassandra and her boyfriend, Jamie Merolla drove all the way there with the pet food collected from the school supply drive. “Everyone I cared about was suffering,” she explains.
As much as Cassandra’s awareness of the full extent to which the hurricane had affected people on Long Island could be attributed, in large part, to her family, her family can also be credited for putting North Shore Animal League America’s rescue work on her radar. Not only did Cassandra’s cat, Patches, come from Animal League America; her cousin, she says, adopted his dog from North Shore Animal League America as well. “All of the animals in my family are from the Animal League,” Cassandra said.
When Cassandra’s family adopted Patches, Cassandra says, Animal League America staff took them through a very thoughtful vetting process. “We were impressed by how thorough they were,” she reports. Her family’s cat, Snowflake – whom they’d adopted as a stray – had just passed away at the time. “We were just thankful we were getting another cat,” she says.
Now with two cats, Cassandra empathetically expresses, “I can’t imagine what I would do if this had happened to me…so that is why I came down to do whatever I could.”
8-year-old Living Thousands of Miles Away Raises Hurricane Funds for North Shore Animal League America
When that 8-year-old Sofia Legreca of Las Vegas, NV heard about animals who might be suffering in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, she decided, from all the way on the other side of the country, to hold a bake sale at her school to support North Shore Animal League America in their continued rescue efforts — and she raised $1,000 in one day! North Shore Animal League America’s Mutt-i-grees curriculum teaches social and emotional learning skills like empathy and team work — but those are skills that Sofia has already learned a lot about on her own — with the help of her loving parents, Jeffrey and Jody, along with the support of the Southern Highlands Preparatory School community. Fox5 TV reporter Azenith Smith told her story: http://www.fox5vegas.com/story/20058942/eight-year-old-holds-bake-sale-to-help-sandy-animals
Lending a Helping Hand; It’s the Natural Thing to Do
When North Shore Animal League America adopters Dan and Tina Romanello of Greenwich, CT faced the question, following Hurricane Sandy, of whether to donate clothes to hurricane victims or to donate pet food for affected families who have animals, Mr. Romanello had an inspiration: “You know what?” he told his wife. “Let’s do both.” That decision made, they drove all the way to the Freeport Recreation Center on Long Island (one of the distribution facilities for people in need) to add their own contribution, along with supplies they had collected from friends, to what Animal League America and Purina PetCare Company were already donating to communities where people had suffered tremendous losses and displacement.
For Dan, helping people not only with their very basic needs, like food and clothing, but also helping them to care for their pets during this trying time seemed like the natural thing to do.
Dan Romanello’s family had rescued Pit Bulls when he was a kid, so he’s always had fond memories of growing up around dogs. That’s why on January 1, 2011, Dan and his wife Tina decided to adopt their own Mutt-i-gree, Whistler – a mix between a Belgian Shepherd and Rhodesian Ridgeback – from North Shore Animal League America when Whistler was just 10 weeks old. At that time Animal League America had recently rescued the puppy from Georgia, Dan said.
When asked why he felt it was important to help hurricane victims care for their pets, Dan pointed out how crucial it is to have something to feel happy about during challenging times. “Our dog brings us a great amount of joy,” he says, telling the story of how Whistler – always up for an hour a day of Frisbee – makes him smile at the end of even the toughest day at work. He recalls how he and his wife fell in love with this puppy, who was incredibly easy to train and, as he describes him, was “all paws and all ears.”
The second after Dan and Tina agreed to take Whistler home from Animal League America, they knew how lucky they were to be the ones to adopt him, noting that at least “10 people after us” at the shelter that day had told them, “If you don’t want him, we’ll take him.”
In preparation for helping their devastated faraway neighbors in Freeport, NY last week, the couple gathered the donated food, bleach, water and other supplies and faced the next question: how to choose an organization that was well-run and would make sure the items quickly reached those who were really hurting. “If we bring [the supplies] to these other places,” Dan remembers thinking, “You don’t know what will happen.” Thinking back to how they had been “really, really impressed” with how well Animal League America treated the pets, Dan and Tina knew that their efforts would have the maximum positive impact on the people who needed the supplies the most with North Shore Animal League America on the job.
Dan and Tina were far from disappointed. “We were very shocked by how appreciative people were,” Dan reports, commending Animal League America, as well, for what he calls the “group of wonderful volunteers” who hustled to help the tremendous number of people who turned out.