Surviving the Storm: Pets Outlive Tornado's Strike

June 16, 2011 | By Margo Ann Sullivan | Category: Heroes | 3 comments
Tags: heroes, adoption & rescue, charity

The news pictures don't do the tornado justice, she said.

"The pictures don't show the scale," she said. That pile right behind the Dakin's fence--or actually what was left of it-- had been two houses, she said. The city had bulldozed those buildings, despite the chance some animals might still be trapped there.

Even as she surveyed the scene, nine days after the tornado, a cat was indeed hiding in the debris. It was about to come out in a humane trap.

Jill Haley-Rose, the Dakin's training and behavior coordinator, had spotted the black and white cat missing since the tornado and tried to coax it out, but the frightened animal slashed her arm. This time, she and staff member Nelson Caraballo waded into the debris with a humane trap and some cat food. Minutes later, they had the cat.

The Dakin is caring for tornado victims' animals, Lash said, but the shelter cannot keep pets indefinitely. "We're starting with five days," she said, and then they will talk over the situation.

T. J. O'Connor is keeping the animals 10 days. Peebles said they do have a good chance of being adopted.

"We do have very good adoption rates," she said. "Given what these animals have been through, they will be given time to deal with the trauma."

Some of the owners have been surrendered the pets already. The marmalade cat's owner, for example, decided the best thing for her cats would be a new home. She is staying with relatives but does not have a place to bring her pets and does not know when she will have a home again.

Lash visited with Gypsy, a Lhasa Apso mix, and her "sister" Holly, both staying at the Dakin while their owner tries to make arrangements. She is disabled, Lash said, and her Monson home was destroyed in the tornado. She wants to keep her pets.

"We have a lot of animals," Lash said. At last count, the number stood at 30, including cats, kittens, dogs and a 31-year-old parrot. The Dakin also has a neighbor's dog, a pit bull named Grommet, who used to jump the shelter fence and nuzzle the staff for treats. His owner, a veteran, is homeless.

The number keeps changing as the lucky ones go home with their owners, while others, like the black-and-white cat and the last Westfield cat to arrive, still wait.

How To Help

Donations can be made to the following:

Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society

PO Box 6307

Springfield, MA 01101

Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center

627 Cottage Street

Springfield, MA 01104

If you can provide temporary care for a large breed dog or a pit bull, the T.J. O'Connor Adoption Center needs foster homes. The application is online at, and the completed paperwork goes via e-mail to

Pictured: Nina, a long-haired Chihuahua mix, was found wandering in one of the neighborhoods hard hit by the tornado and brought to the T.J.O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center. Her name is engraved on her collar, but so far, an owner has not claimed her. She was terrified by the ordeal, but finally made friends with Animal Control Officer Erick Velez. (Photo Credit: Margo Ann Sullivan)

Do you know of shelters and rescue groups in your area who have been affected by recent storms and tornados? Tell us your stories below!

Comments (1)

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4 years ago

I was truly touched by the story I heard about the dog who crawled home after a storm he crawled back home with two broken legs.

Good Point | Reply ›

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