Cats and kittens from Florida arrive at OHS to make room for pets affected by Hurricane Michael
When Hurricane Michael roared through the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola barely escaped the storm’s wrath. However, nearby Panama City and Mexico Beach suffered catastrophic damage. As rescue and recovery began, the plight of the animals became clear. Innovative solutions would be necessary to save lives, care for animals and help pet-owners in need.
A national effort began to empty nearby Florida shelters that were not impacted by Hurricane Michael, but were close enough to assist pets and people. The Oregon Humane Society was asked to help. “How many cats and kittens can you take?” was the question posed to OHS by the team from the Humane Society of United States, who was leading the transport effort on the ground in Florida. The OHS team met to determine the best way to help as many pets as possible. The decision was made to set up the off-site rescue center to temporarily house the cats and kittens and gradually move them to the main shelter for adoption. This plan would also allow OHS to continue to receive the regularly scheduled transports of cats and kittens from current shelter partners.
The plan was put in motion and the off-site rescue center was transformed into a kitty wonderland; large dog kennels were morphed into cat colony rooms and wire dog crates became comfy kitty condos. Once the arrival date and time was set, staff and volunteers mobilized and prepared for the largest single intake of cats and kittens in OHS history. Close to 100 cats and kittens were coming to OHS from Escambia County Animals Services in Pensacola, Florida. In total close to 200 pets were moving to the Northwest, freeing up local resources in Pensacola to assist neighboring areas. The Portland community was also asked to help by adopting a cat or kitten from OHS’s main shelter or donating canned cat food.
The flight from Florida was long and the noise on the tarmac was deafening. However, the resilient felines were eager to say hello as they were being unloaded. Their paws reached out from their kennels and their meows became audible as they were moved in to the OHS transport vehicle.
Once the cats and kittens arrived at OHS’s off-site facility, the team checked them in and got them settled into their new home. One team member remarked that there was a kitty symphony of meows and purrs echoing through the facility. Perhaps it was the sound of gratitude, or the gentle reassurance that during the worst disasters there are always glimmers of hope.