Animal rescuers respond to Hurricane Matthew

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, American Humane moved its animal rescue team and emergency vehicles into one of the hardest-hit areas to provide emergency aid and reunite pets and people caught in the catastrophe.

The national organization was working with the Palmetto Animal League to help displaced pets at its shelter in Okatie, South Carolina, and to create a disaster recovery center for the region.

Okatie was one of the hardest hit areas in South Carolina, suffering what the governor called “unprecedented damage.”

PAL, which rescues cats and dogs, was housing about 155 cats and 25 dogs at its shelter near Hilton Head Island.

Fred Liebert, chairman of its board, said the organization’s resources were “stretched to the limit.”

AH was called on to help with supplies, staff veterinary clinics for injured and ill animals and provide other critical services.

The rescue program was created in 1916 at the request of the U.S. Secretary of War to save warhorses wounded on battlefields of World War I. Since then, AH has responded to many disaster relief efforts — from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from Hurricane Katrina to Superstorm Sandy. Over the past decade, the organization has helped protect more than 80,000 animals.

“The local PAL shelter reached out to us to help them and their community recover from the disaster and we will do everything in our power to make a difference for the animal victims and their families,” said Randy Collins, national director of animal rescue for American Humane.

“But we also want to make sure the larger region has animal disaster relief services now that the storm is over and the cameras are leaving. The hurricane is gone, but the need is not,” Collins said.

Riding out the storm

Animal rescuers responded to areas in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina with help not only after the hurricane, but also before and during.

AH senior team member Jeff Eyre and his three-legged German Shepherd Dually drove an emergency van about nine hours to reach North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and ready a hurricane shelter for 117 cats and 49 dogs.

When Matthew hit, hurricane-force winds actually moved American Humane’s truck but Eyre and Dually rode out the storm with the shelter animals.

At one point, when the shelter lost electricity, Eyre had to use the rescue vehicle to power fans to keep the animals from overheating.