| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – In the world of humane societies and animal shelters, a natural disaster brings aid from around the country.
Dakin Humane Society recently sent a team to New Jersey to a shelter that was bringing shelter animals from Puerto Rico due to the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Executive Director Carmine DiCenso took a look in the computerized inventory of the shelter’s dog and cats last week and was happy to report most of the pets that had been rescued had found new homes or foster situations.
He explained to Reminder Publications this is only possible because of increased adoption activities at Dakin that creates room. “Adoptions have been wonderful,” he added.
On Sept. 30, four Dakin Humane Society employees and one volunteer traveled from Western Massachusetts to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ, to assist in the arrival and care of planeloads of animals flown directly from disaster-struck Puerto Rico.
DiCenso explained that Dakin is a partner with St. Hubert’s, which acts as a hub for a number of shelters that assist in such emergencies. This was not the first time Dakin has participated in such an action. The shelter has taken in “Dixie Dogs” in the past, animals that created overflows in shelters in Southern states and has helped in other natural disasters.
Hundreds of dogs and cats and a few pet pigs, already in shelters at the time Hurricane Maria hit, were flown to New Jersey to allow animal welfare workers on the island to utilize shelter space to assist storm-displaced animals. According to Karina King, Dakin’s director of Operations, the team received animals at a nearby airport each evening, sometimes as late as 2 a.m., transported them back to St. Hubert’s, and settled them in for the night. On the following day the team returned to provide medical care that would include blood draws, vaccinations and veterinarian exams as preparation for adoption.
Each plane that brought animals up from Puerto Rico was filled with supplies to help the people in distress before returning to the island.
King contacted Nueva Esperanza in Holyoke to ask if she and the Dakin group could take some of the many supplies Nueva Esperanza had collected to help the residents of Puerto Rico. “We told them we would probably be able to get items on planes headed directly down there, and they were very happy to provide us with diapers and other much-needed items,” King said.
DiCenso explained that Hurricane Katrina “changed everything” in terms of how animals shelters react to natural disasters. He said the nation’s humane societies, such as Dakin, are better prepared now to accommodate the displaced animals. DiCenso also noted that Dakin was helped when its facility was hit by the June 1, 2011 tornado.
He said this year, so far, has been a “1-2-3 punch with no time to recover” and he believes there will be weather conditions in the future that will necessitate cooperative action among shelters to save animals.
DiCenso said that when people ask him “how do I help a hurricane animal?” he tells them, “Helping any [shelter] animal helps a hurricane animal.”
If you’re not interested in adopting, visit dakinhumane.org to make a gift online to help care for the animals, or you can visit Dakin’s Amazon Wish List (http://amzn.to/2xJJBYZ) to help restock its shelves.