Local relief coordinator sets out to help pets after Louisiana floods
Local relief coordinator sets out to help pets after Louisiana floods in August
Erin Flowers is on a mission — to fill a truck with pet supplies and deliver the aid to a flooded shelter in Louisiana.
Flowers, who is the community relief coordinator with Operation Safe Shelter, a community advocacy group based in La Plata, is calling this endeavor Paws on the Ground, which is “to provide relief to residents and pets of the catastrophic flood of August 2016.”
She went to Louisiana in mid-September to help as a good Samaritan, and took with her supplies of “human stuff,” like toiletries, clothes and food, helping a group that included volunteers from the rescue squad in La Plata.
“I cried the entire day” after seeing the devastation caused by the flooding in Louisiana, she said. “You lose everything. You lose your car, walls, documents.”
Flowers said there are still people living in tents because of the flooding, and that there is debris piled everywhere as people try to restart their lives. Animals, too, have had to stuggle.
Flowers’ plan is to rent a large moving truck and load up collected pet supplies from her house and a few other dropoff locations in Southern Maryland, before she and Kim Burch of Operation Safe Shelter drive straight through to Louisiana on Friday, Nov. 18.
Flowers is coordinating the deliver with Cindy Luquette, the shelter manager at Cara’s House in Sorrento, La.
“They’ve lost their entire facility,” said Flowers, who works as a veterinarian technician in Waldorf.
In mid-August, storms dumped rain across southern Louisiana — more than 2 feet in some areas — causing rivers to flood, displacing tens of thousands of people.
“It could happen to us. It absolutely could happen to us,” because of the region’s proximity to water, she said. “I would hope that if something catastrophic happened here that someone would be thinking about me … and my pets.”
“When the flood came we took in probably 8 to 10 inches of water in our office and … the kennel took in a foot of water,” Luquette said. Her own home nearby had as much as 2 feet of water that stayed for three to four days, she said.
“When everyone has flooded, there’s no one to turn to [for help]. You’re just lost,” she said.
The shelter was able to re-establish a temporar y location inside an openair horse barn at an expo center in the nearby town of Gonzales, La.
“When the flood hit we had 219 animals, dogs and cats,” she said. All but nine were able to be sent to other rescuers in the region, and those few left were moved to the temporary shelter.
Since then, the shelter has seen 875 animals come through the shelter. Some of those have been reclaimed or adopted out. As of Wednesday, Luquette said they have 70 dogs and about 100 cats. “It never stops,” she said. Flowers has 3,500 pounds of cat litter (donated by the Animal Relief Fund in Lexington Park), 40 comforters, numerous bags of dog and cat food and loads of other supplies all ready.
Still, she said she is accepting any pet supplies right up to the day before she leaves next weekend, and is still especially in need of monetary donations to help with travel expenses, which she’s calculated at about $3,500. Those can be made directly through the Operation Safe Shelter nonprofit organization.
Supplies can be dropped off at the Pet Valu in Leonardtown, Bridle Hill Farm in Charlotte Hall, Riverdale or Lakeside animal hospitals in Prince George’s County, or people can coordinate with Flowers to drop off at her home or other private locations in Chesapeake Beach and La Plata.
Luquette said they have received some other donations over the last three months, including a large donation from an animal rescue group in Virginia last weekend.
“It is amazing. We’re so excited,” about the donations coming from Southern Maryland, she said. She said she is planning on splitting the donations with the Denham Spring Shelter in a neighboring parish.
For now, though, Luquette and others at the shelter are doing their best to take care sof the animals under their charge, while also trying to get their own lives and homes back on track.
“We don’t have the winters like you all do up there, but it does get cold,” she said, adding that they have blankets available for the animals.
They were hoping to be back in there shelter all ready, but the goal now is to be moved back by the new year.
For more information about how to help, either by donating pet supplies or funds, call 240-3461552, email Erin@OperationSafeShelter.org or visit www.operationsafeshelter.org.
Erin Flowers of Mechanicsville sorts through some of the many donations she’s already received for an animal shelter in Louisiana that was displaced after flooding in August.
Cara’s House, an animal shelter in Louisiana, is temporarily set up in an open-air horse barn in a nearby town.
Dogs are in their cages at a temporarily set up in an open-air horse barn after Cara’s House in Louisiana was flooded in August.