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Flooding Puts Humane Society's Animals in Peril

Sept. 17, 2004 – Flooding from Tropical Storm Jeanne brought disaster to the Humane Society of St. Thomas Wednesday night when a rushing, four-foot wall of mud and debris swept through the Nadir property. Joe Elmore, Humane Society executive director, said all the animals survived, but estimates the deluge left at least $65,000 of damage in its wake.
Lisa Walker, who has worked for the Humane Society for 20 years and is currently the director of administration and finance, said, "I've never seen it this bad, not even during [Hurricane] Marilyn, which took the roof off the dog kennels and most of the administration buildings."
Humane Society staff showed up for work Thursday morning to find a thick layer of mud carpeting the floors of the administrative building and the dog and cat kennels. They also discovered the inventory of the flea market, a popular moneymaker for the animal shelter, had been ravaged.
Elmore, who joined the organization only three months ago, said standard preparations for Jeanne were completed Tuesday night in anticipation of the flooding. The animal shelter property lies directly in the exit path of a large aqueduct that funnels tons of water away from Nadir and Bovoni neighborhoods.
Hurricane shutters were bolted up and a dozen dogs were moved from a low-lying kennel to higher ground on Tuesday, according to Elmore. Many of the smaller adults and puppies were evacuated to the offices of veterinarian Dr. Andy Williamson.
Elmore explained that volunteer emergency foster care givers picked up two or three ill or injured animals. "Emergency foster care is definitely an area where we could use some help," Elmore said.
Despite these preparations, nothing could be done to completely mitigate the effects of the flood. Pointing to a water line nearly two feet above the main dog-kennel floor, Elmore said the dogs "had a wet night," and the smallest among them probably spent some time paddling to keep their heads above water.
The shelter's 30 to 40 rescued cats fared a little better because they are kept in kennels and pet carriers several feet off the ground. "But if the flood had been even a foot higher, the cats would have been in trouble," Elmore said.
The staff and a few volunteers are now at work trying to get the shelter back in order. With electricity gone in most buildings and the water supply contaminated, Elmore said he expects the work will carry into next week.
The flea market is shut down until further notice, and Elmore said the facility "can't really handle intake of new animals right now." Members of the community accustomed to trapping stray cats and dogs are asked to suspend these efforts for now.
"This is a busy time of year for us anyway," Elmore said, urging St. Thomas residents to consider adopting an animal from the shelter.
Elmore expects normal operations at the shelter and the flea market will resume some time next week.
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