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March 9, 2012

Reuniting animals, owners is shelter’s pet project

J.B. Ogle Shelter director says as many as 25 animals are waiting for owners

JEFFERSONVILLE — For many people, the most welcome sight at the end of the longest and most trying days is the front door of their home. On the other side, there’s a robe to dissolve into and a sofa to collapse onto.

A lot of times there are lit-up eyes, prancing toes and a wiggly tail on the other side of the door, too, waiting to help melt all of the day’s worries away like only a pet can.

More than anything else, J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter Director Sarah Green said she wants to make sure residents who lost their homes and belongings in last week’s tornadoes don’t also lose their pets and the comfort they bring to their families. Green’s job is two-fold: Reuniting families with pets they may have lost in the storms and helping families provide for the pets in their care, even in the absence of permanent shelter for themselves.

“A couple of people have relinquished their pets because they felt like they didn’t have the resources to take care of them anymore. I hate to hear that,” Green said. “And I’ve heard some people don’t want to go to emergency shelters because they can’t take their pets with them. I definitely, more than anything else, want people to know not to do that. We have the resources to help.”

Green has spent the last week building a network and gathering outside support from animal groups, businesses and residents to make sure resources are available to people who need help caring for their pets while they get their lives back on track. She also is in “constant contact,” she said, with emergency response officials from the Red Cross, for example, who know how to reach her if someone comes to them requesting help.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response for donations,” Green said. “Food and bedding and things like that. Dogwood Inn Kennels on [Ind.] 62 has been gracious enough to loan some space to board pets for owners who don’t have anywhere to take them and we’re getting a lot of help from Southern Indiana Animal Rescue. We’ve kind of partnered with them and we work really well together.”

A crew from the shelter responded to the affected areas last Friday, immediately following the tornadoes. But after arriving, they realized it was too premature for rescue operations at that point. Instead, they returned Saturday and Green said they have had an animal control officer in the area every day since, looking for stray animals or people who may need help with their pets.

“We’ve been asking for all of the strays to come here,” Green said. “So we can be the centralized location where people can come and look if they are missing their pet.”

It becomes difficult to reunite pets and families, Green said, when animals get taken to multiple locations — sometimes by well-meaning citizens — and aren’t kept track of.

So far, there are about 20 or 25 animals at the Jeffersonville shelter that have been found by either the animal rescue group or city and county animal control officers. Just one of those animals — a dog — was injured, Green said, and veterinarians from Eastside Animal Hospital pitched in their services earlier this week to help with surgery.

Photos of all of the rescued animals being housed at the Ogle shelter have been posted on the shelter’s Facebook page, as well as Southern Indiana Animal Rescue’s Facebook page.

Green is also encouraging anyone who has lost a pet to post a message, description or photo on the shelter’s Facebook page. Although the shelter typically only holds animals that come into the shelter as strays for five days before they put them up for adoption, that hold period is being extended, Green said.

“I haven’t come up with a date or a magic time period. It will at least be several weeks,” Green said. “We know this is going to be a process. A long process.”

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