Hurricane dogs looking for homes

Rescued from the ravages of Harvey


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  • Blueberry, Australian cattle dog mix, up for adoption or foster care Photos by Meghan Byers




  • Charlie, up for adoption or foster care




  • Strawberry and Blueberry, siblings




  • Strawberry, Australian cattle dog mix, up for adoption or foster care



By Meghan Byers

– Secluded at the Sussex County Fairgrounds with nothing but chainlink fencing and a handwritten sign to indicate their presence, sixteen dogs and puppies are recovering from the lingering after-effects of Hurricane Harvey. The rescued dogs arrived early Sunday morning, transported from makeshift shelters in Houston, Texas to the Ernest M. Kosa County Building at the fairgrounds in Augusta – their new refuge until they can find permanent homes.

This isn’t the first time that the fairgrounds have served as a temporary shelter for displaced dogs. Dr. Pamela Schott, the veterinarian behind the Sussex County Storm Dogs project, says that she drew inspiration from an effort by fellow veterination Dr. Karen Dashfield, who set up a similar rescue operation following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“When I heard what was happening, I just wanted to help,” said Schott, who has worked at Animal Hospital of Sussex County for the past eleven years. She traveled down to Houston in September with other local volunteers – including her daughter, Lydia – to help rescue and care for animals in the aftermath of the storm.

“The majority were out in the field, pulling dogs out of the water,” she said.

During her time in Houston, Schott witnessed hundreds of animals held in less than ideal circumstances – a flooded supermarket provided shelter to rescued dogs, for example, whereas a drive-through bank was utilized as a temporary refuge for cats.

To make matters worse, Houston animal rescues had been struggling with a pet overpopulation crisis long before the hurricane swept through and left many residents without the means to care for their pets.

“A great deal of people were surrendering pets they couldn’t take with them,” Schott said. “But the spay and neuter rate is much lower there. They already had that issue even without the storm.”

Working with the organization Houston Pets Alive, Schott and fellow volunteers were able to arrange for some of these “storm dogs” to be transported up to New Jersey. The shelter at the fairgrounds, however, is another temporary solution; Sussex County Storm Dogs has only been granted use of the Kosa building for four to six weeks.

“We have a limited amount of time to place the dogs,” said Schott, adding, “Some of them have been through a lot.”

Nearly all of the rescued adult dogs have heartworm disease, for example, which Schott said can be challenging and costly to treat. The dogs’ activity must be restricted to allow them to recover. Some dogs may have behavioral concerns as well, and require more socialization before they can be placed in new homes.

The local community has stepped up to help with some of the challenges facing the storm dogs. The chainlink fencing was provided by the 4-H Goat Club, for example, so that the dogs can safely be brought outside for some fresh air. Rescue organizations such as Cold Nose Warm Hearts, Byram Animal Rescue Kindness Squad, and Father John’s Animal House have all offered their cooperation.

However, volunteers for walking dogs and cleaning are still needed, especially with more dogs arriving this coming Sunday. Anyone interested in fostering, adopting, donating, or volunteering can e-mail Sussex County Storm Dogs at sussexcountystormdogs@gmail.com.




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