Flood Shelters Set Up for Dakota Animals

March 28, 2009 | By Amy Lieberman | Category: Care & Safety | 164 comments
Tags: care & safety

Fargo pet owners and shelters are bracing to see their animals through the devastating floods expected to hit the region this weekend. (ZT Pet News Photo Illustration)

FARGO, N.D. -- With the threat of severe flooding overtaking Fargo, regional pet owners and shelters alike are scrambling to ensure their animals' safety.

Evacuations across the 92,000-population city were underway Friday morning, as officials said they expected the Red River to crest at a record 43 feet by Saturday. Residents continued to secure sandbags, hoping to increase the city's dike protection against the rising river.

Evacuees also struggled to find a safe holding place for the animals they could not take along with them.

The Red River Zoo has opened its doors to exotic pets, says Mike Schmidt, the zoo's animal collection manager. He says that the zoo's location is "sitting pretty good, looking at the flood map" and that he doesn't think the facility will have to evacuate its North American and Asian animals.

Confident in the zoo's present standing, Schmidt said it was only right to help pets in peril.

"Right now, we've started a shelter, if you will, for the community of exotic pets. Red Cross and the Humane Society and things like that, they aren't used to working with exotics," he said.

"So, instead of moving our animals out, we are focusing on bringing other animals in."

Schmidt said the zoo's foster population mainly consists of rabbits, snakes, frogs, rodents, birds and other small pets. On Thursday, someone dropped off a 12-foot long Colombian boa constrictor.

"We had one gal this morning who came by and dropped off her seven birds," Schmidt said. "She was in tears, and said that she didn't want to leave them, but she didn't want to risk her own life, either. Having this option was a 'big relief,' was how she put it."

Other local institutions are also pitching in where they can -- the North Dakota State University, for instance, is holding nearly 200 horses for residents, Schmidt said.

Two farmers have also reported "large losses," according to Beth Carlson, the deputy state veterinarian with North Dakota's state board of animals.

"We know that people have lost a couple of animals," she said, noting that 50 to 100 cattle perished on one farm. Approximately 50 additional cattle are said to have also died at another farm. There are rumors of other deaths, but they have not been confirmed, Carlson said.

"We are concerned," she said. "We are hopeful that we won't have major problems in Fargo, but we are getting prepared in case we do."

Carlson says that if necessary, the state is arranging for emergency shelters in Bismarck and Valley City.

The Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society is spearheading rescue efforts for the dog and cat population of North Dakota's largest city. It has set up an emergency shelter at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, in West Fargo, but the shelter's executive director said she is worried about the havoc the flooding might create.

"We have no idea what is to come," Nukhet Hendricks said in a Friday morning interview. "We are just going and working as fast as we can."

"It snowed last night, and as far as I know, everything is contained, but it's minute-to-minute news."

West Fargo is not expected to be affected by the flooding, she said, a prognosis that offers hope for Fargo's main shelter. Yet the facility is still reaching out to other local rescue groups, and looking to United Animal Nation, an international emergency rescue program, for additional aid.

United Animal Nation's spokeswoman, Alexis Raymond, said that the organization has dispatched 15 volunteers, who are traveling from six different states, to the region.

"Everyone here is doing the best they can to help humans and animals here, that much I can say," Hendricks said. "Like they're saying on the news, this is uncharted territory. We're just taking it day by day."

Frigid weather is compacting the region's challenge in facing the floods; it was 10 degrees on Friday morning, with a wind chill reported at 4 degrees below zero. The waters, which have already driven several hundred people from their homes, are chocked full with pieces of ice.

As The Associated Press reported, President Barack Obama earlier this week declared the entire state of North Dakota a disaster area.

Regional rescue groups are asking pet owners to drop off their animals' medications, food and supplies if they plan on leaving them at the emergency shelter.

Volunteers and additional goods, including food, cat litter, bedding, toys, bleach, newspapers and treats, have also been requested.

To volunteer or to learn more about donating materials to the emergency shelter, call 701-281-1574.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments (139)

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6 years ago

I hope everyone, people and pets, come out okay at the end of all this.

Good Point | Reply ›

Tamara W.

Tamara W.
6 years ago

Fortunately my pets are home again, and re-adjusting. Once again though I am thankful for these people who made this shelter, and others taking in pets. If not for them I would have been forced to leave them (though I would rather drown than do it, and probably would have stayed and risked it) These people are wonderful, and I am just giving extra love to the babies until they are better from this.

Good Point | Reply ›

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