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After Hurricane Florence, Animal Shelters Are Inundated With Lost Pets


Heavy flooding continues in the Carolinas, with rivers still swollen from the rain dumped by Florence. Officials say the storm separated a lot of families from their pets. And animal shelters in the region are overwhelmed by lost dogs and cats. Now they're getting some help from as far away as Delaware, as NPR's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Nancy Ryan takes me down a dark hallway in the shelter here in Wilmington, N.C., one of the cities hardest hit by Florence.

Are you guys just exhausted?


MANN: The day I visit, the shelter has no electricity and is operating with generator power.


MANN: The lights flicker on. And Ryan shows me a room packed with cages - more than a hundred dogs peering out. And next door, 60 cats and tiny little kittens.

Oh, sweethearts.

RYAN: Yeah.

MANN: Ryan says people get separated from their animals during storms like this in different ways. Some pets were dropped off here by people fleeing Florence. Some evacuation shelters that take in people don't take dogs and cats. Other pets just get lost in the confusion.

RYAN: We have a lot of animals here. And we keep getting them. You know, people left them prestorm when they were leaving town. And, of course, they can't really get back to town to get them, so they're still here. And now we have some coming after, people that had abandoned their animals in their flooded yards.

MANN: Ryan says, for most of the animals in these cages, there's a family out there feeling the pain and loss of the storm.

RYAN: Some people have no homes to go back to. They'll call us in a panic.

MANN: This is happening right across parts of the Carolinas where Florence hit. I saw a lot of people on the road with their pets, living in cars or in hotel rooms. But a lot of the animals got separated from their families. And they're turning up in places like this. It's a sports coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., converted into a rescue shelter.

ELAINE SMITH: Citizens have brought dogs in that were just out swimming that, you know - who knows where they came from - that, of course, we're taking in.

MANN: Elaine Smith heads Cumberland County Animal Control. She says they had to leave their normal shelter and come here because of flooding on the Cape Fear River.

SMITH: When you have 225 animals to evacuate, you cannot wait. We were very brisk about it. But it took us two hours to get all the animals loaded and out of the building.

MANN: The shelters I visit in North Carolina say they'll keep all the dogs and cats made homeless by the storm and try to reunite them with their families. Volunteer and nonprofit groups outside the region are helping ease the pressure by taking in hundreds of animals already in shelters ready for adoption even before Florence hit. Cori Miller came from Georgetown, Del., in a van to pick up a load of 55 cats.

CORI MILLER: When I woke up this morning and they were like, we need somebody to drive, I was like, OK. It's nice to be able to help out where we can.

MANN: Miller's organization, the Brandywine Valley SPCA, has opened a new 12,000-square-foot rescue and rehabilitation center in Delaware designed to help after storms like this. She says they first saw the need after Harvey hit the Houston area last year.

MILLER: We're now there staffed and ready for the intake. So it's going to be like a hub for the animals leaving the hurricane area.

MANN: These volunteer and county organizations have no-kill policies. Once as many pets are reunited with owners as possible, they'll start looking for other families across the U.S. to adopt the hundreds of dogs and cats still homeless after Florence. Brian Mann, NPR News, Fayetteville, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.