by Amanda Newsom
As the Athens Area Humane Society (AAHS) gathered donated supplies for the pet victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma emerged as a threat here at home in Athens, GA. Their focus shifted quickly to not only preparing their shelter for potential outages or damages, but simultaneously to taking in an additional 40 cats and one dog from shelters affected by Irma in coastal Georgia and Florida—essentially doubling the number of cats in their care. Because the storm shifted, many shelters that were offering assistance quickly were in need of help themselves, and groups like FurKids and Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Atlanta stepped in to coordinate transports from these shelters to others in Georgia and beyond. On October 21, AAHS took in 21 cats from Osceola Humane Society in Florida, and they took in 13 more cats transferred from coastal Georgia via BFAS Atlanta. They also took in one dog that was surrendered by their owner who had fled the storm, and they took in a cat being fostered by a volunteer from Clearwater, FL who was unable to transport the cat back home after the storm.
Jed Kaylor, Shelter Manager at AAHS, said “Everybody is really friendly. We did get pretty much all adult cats—everybody was at least three months or older, and then… I pulled a litter of six sick kittens.” The cats were immediately vetted with rabies vaccines, and they are now being treated for different ailments like upper respiratory infections. They have one cat (the fostered cat from Florida) who needs a special diet because of kidney issues and another little guy had been seemingly bitten all over by ants, but for the most part they were a healthy group of cats and are ready to be adopted.
Last year AAHS took in eight dogs and one cat that were very sick from Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina and in February 2016 they took in 47 Chihuahuas from a hoarding case in Barrow County, so this wasn’t their first foray in helping pets affected by disasters. “That’s something that Jane [AAHS Executive Director] and I both have been proud of, our ability to mesh with whatever situation arises... It makes people see that we’re doing something other than just adoptions and spays and neuters; that we’re really in it for more than that, and we are here to help save their lives in any fashion possible.”
When asked what advice he has for people to be prepared for natural disasters in our area, Kaylor said, “If you think you may be evacuating at some time in the future, vet clinics and boarding facilities will house animals for a cheaper cost sometimes, but that’s something that wasn’t really addressed by the vet community here. And many people didn’t know they could board their cats.” He says you can also plan to have family or friends help house you and your pets during an evacuation. “Shelters were inundated, and that’s not something we want to see. Some animals were left behind or tethered to trees, and that should never happen.”
During the month of September, AAHS lowered all cat adoption fees to $50 to encourage people to adopt a feline friend, and their Black Cat special in October lowers black cat adoption fees to $13 for adults and $75 for kittens (normally $150). If you’ve been thinking of adopting a cat, now is the best time to do so to help take pressure off the number of cats at AAHS, and it’s also better on your wallet… even though we all know they are truly priceless!
If you would like to help the cats affected by Irma that are still awaiting adoption at AAHS, you can make monetary donations to assist with their medical costs or donate in-kind items such as cat crates (the ones that snap together), Purina Cat Chow or Kitten Chow, any brand of cat or kitten wet food, or toys for enrichment. Kaylor also says, “We work pretty closely with Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, so any donations we get, we like to share the love.” For more information, please contact AAHS at athenshumanesociety.org.