Hurricane Michael provided a learning experience for the folks at the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society.
And as they watched Hurricane Dorian track toward the Carolinas last week, they hoped to apply those lessons to aid shelter animals in the path.
“I went through Hurricane Michael,” said Kylie Skoda, officer manager at the 10th Street shelter. “I stayed in Wewa.
“I didn’t want those animals to go through what our animals went through.”
Following Michael, the shelter had even signed on to a website portal that offered something of a resource directory for shelters facing emergency circumstances.
They were ready to assist.
But other shelters didn’t exactly grab on to the extended hand.
“We just wanted some dogs and cats,” said Caitlin Godwin, adoption coordinator at the SJBHS shelter. “We went state by state and no one answered (as Dorian churned).
“So, we decided we’ll track them down.”
They scoured Facebook and other online sites to find phone numbers for shelters in the path of the storm and new Director Tricia Smith began dialing.
In time, she reached a shelter in Charleston, SC which was in the mandatory evacuation zone for Hurricane Dorian.
A transfer was arranged.
This proved easier said the done.
Awakening at 6:45 a.m. last Tuesday, Skoda drove to Panama City to rent three vans and returned to Port St. Joe to load animal cages and crates she had prepared into the vans.
That was followed by a 4.5 hour drive to Waycross, GA where Skoda, Godwin and fellow SJBHS staffer Sydney Goulding met four emergency transporters that originated in Charleston.
“They started in Charleston but the animals were from all different shelters,” Godwin said. “We were met back at the shelter that night to many awesome volunteers and our board who helped us get all the pets settled for the night.
“We are just glad we got the animals out of harm’s way.”
In all, the shelter received 20 dogs and 15 cats.
“We were able to take them because adoptions have really increased in recent months and we had the space, though it was tight,” Godwin said. “We knew it was important to help them out, not only to save the animals, but to free up some of their space.
“After the storm they are going to have a lot of animals coming in. We knew how hard it is for a shelter. And it is not like their animals and our animals; we love all animals.”
Despite the exhaustion, which Skoda was still feeling a week later, it was a trip that had to be made, she said.
“We didn’t stop other than for gas and to get the animals,” Skoda said. “It made us exhausted but it made me feel better these animals are safe and being well-cared for.”
Some of the animals are in foster care at this moment and all will be available for adoption through the SJBHS.
“We are so appreciative of our fosters but we are desperately in need of more fosters,” Godwin said.
Those interested in adopting a “Hurricane Evacuee” can visit the shelter or the SJBHS Facebook page.
The shelter is also collecting monetary and physical donations to assist with the vetting, spay/neuter and daily needs of the evacuated animals.
Tax-deductible donations may be made in person, via Facebook or the SJBHS website.