The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived Tuesday afternoon with cages, bowls, food, industrial fans, tents and more. Staff members established a temporary shelter behind the Dyersburg-Dyer County Humane Society Animal Shelter and set up a decontamination area to disinfect animals that had been in the flood.
Shelter Manager Derrick Avery said some people went to work as usual Monday morning and later found out they couldn't go home. Their pets remained at home as the floodwaters approached.
The humane society's two animal control officers worked with emergency personnel to find and rescue pets. They were later joined by Tiptonville Animal Control Officer Chandra Davis, who is on loan this week from the Tiptonville Police Department, and the ASPCA.
Many dogs were rescued from outdoor pens, front stoops and inside homes. One dog was found in a cage that was floating in the floodwater, Avery said. Another dog was found on a Williams Street rooftop Tuesday night.
Cats were found inside homes, in barns and inside garages.
Avery said pet owners have called the shelter and asked that someone rescue the pets they'd left behind.
Several evacuees also brought their pets to the shelter because they couldn't take their pets to the American Red Cross shelter, or wherever they planned to go.
Animals plucked from the floodwaters go through a decontamination process consisting of repeated washings with Dawn liquid dish detergent. Allison Cardona, ASPCE director of operations for field investigations and response, said the floodwater may be contaminated with sewage, gasoline or other harmful substances. Dogs and cats, which groom themselves by licking their fur, could become ill if they lick themselves after being in the flood.
Kyle Held, Midwest director of the ASPCA field investigations and response, said contaminated waters may also cause a bird's feathers to stick together. If the birds can't preen or adjust their feathers, they can't regulate their body heat, he said.
Avery said about half of the pets have been claimed by their owners - and many of those pets will remain at the shelter until the owners return to their homes. The humane society does not plan to charge owners for boarding or vaccinations.
The reunions of pets and their owners have been touching for Avery and other animal shelter workers.
On Wednesday, for example, a gentleman went to the animal shelter with a photograph of his dog. The shelter staff recognized the dog, which had been found injured in a ditch and was at a local veterinarian clinic. "He was lost without his dog," Avery said.
A woman, who was worried about her cats, began to cry when rescuers found three of her four feline friends in a carport. Avery admitted that he had to walk away, or he would have started crying too.
Shelter employees also have been impressed with number of volunteers who've reported to the shelter. Avery said more than 20 volunteers came Thursday morning to exercise the dogs.
Chandra Davis said organizations have also been generous. Hollywood Feed provided cages and The Pet Stop opened its doors to adoptable pets to make room for rescued pets at the shelter. The Pet Stop also is holding the cockatiels.
Pet Smart Charities donated about a thousand pounds of dog food, six collapsible crates, treats and bowls to the shelter, she said
Avery thanked Homoz Salemi, who offered to house the roosters, chickens and duck; the Tiptonville Police Department; the ASPCA; McDonald's restaurant, which provided food for the rescuers; former shelter workers Roger Ferris and his son, Larry Scruggs, Grady Whitt and a man known simply as Willie.
"It was a humbling experience to say the least, but I was also proud of the fact that everyone came together to do what was needed," Avery said.