Lo­cal relief co­or­di­na­tor sets out to help pets af­ter Louisiana floods

Lo­cal relief co­or­di­na­tor sets out to help pets af­ter Louisiana floods in Au­gust

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JESSE YEATMAN jyeat­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JesseEn­tNews

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY JESSE YEATMAN

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

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.

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