Volunteers converge at pet shelter

Published 12:01 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

NATCHEZ — Volunteers from around the country bottle-fed kittens and walked strangers’ dogs Wednesday at the emergency pet shelter at 507 Wall St.

The temporary shelter, located at the former Waste Management Building, opened its doors Wednesday to Miss-Lou residents looking to board their pets during a possible flood evacuation.

The free shelter, which the Humane Society of the United States set up at the request of Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Pet owners must bring a certificate of health and proof of rabies shots for their pet.

HSUS Mississippi Director Lydia Sattler said four HSUS volunteers and 10 volunteers from United Animal Nations, a non-profit organization for animals, will operate the shelter.

Janell Matthies, the UAN Emergency Services Manger at the Adams County shelter, said the shelter took in 35 pets on its first day, including three litters of kittens.

Matthies, a California resident herself, said the volunteers with UAN came to Natchez to help from as far away as California, Michigan and Canada.

Matthies said she has volunteered with UAN at emergency shelters across the country for 15 years.

“I love being able to help animals out and make a better situation for pets and their owners,” she said.

Matthies said the shelter has its own leashes, crates, food and other supplies, which was provided by PetsMart Charities. The shelter will operate at no cost to the city or county, Mayfield said.

Sattler said Adams County will be able to keep all of the supplies after water resides and the emergency shelter closes.

The animals will be walked a few times a day, Matthies said. And if pets require medicine or other special needs, the medicine and instructions will be attached to that pet’s kennel.

Residents from Concordia Parish staying in Adams County can pick up their pet during the day and drop it off at night, if they prefer.

Sattler said she came to Natchez straight from Alabama, where the Mississippi HSUS helped out at emergency shelters for tornado victims in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.

She said the HSUS also has an emergency shelter set up in Tunica, where three field Mississippi HSUS volunteers were based Wednesday, rescuing animals on rooftops.

Helping people — and their pets — who are planning to evacuate is a precautionary measure that can help people make evacuation plans early on, Sattler said.

“Please remember, if it is not safe for you it isn’t safe for your pets,” Sattler said.

Out-of-town volunteers at the Wall Street shelter will be on site for two weeks, and may stay for an extended period of time, Sattler said. Mayfield said local humane society volunteers may eventually operate the shelter to relieve the out-of-state volunteers.

Mayfield, who visited the shelter Wednesday, said he remembered sad stories of rescued animals during Hurricane Katrina. He hoped putting a shelter in place ahead of potential flooding would help prevent as many displaced animals.

“We want to be prepared for a (possible) influx of (pets),” Mayfield said.

“I hope (Concordia Parish) doesn’t need to (evacuate); but if they do, we’ll be ready.”

Sattler said residents can call her with inquiries at 228-216-6627.

Other pet people are also making moves to prepare for possible flooding.

Miss-Lou Vet Clinic of Vidalia has already begun moving its operations Natchez Stockyards on River Terminal Road to be able to continue serving patients.