In April 2011, it was clear that the town of Caruthersville faced massive flooding from the Mississippi River. To prepare for a potentially disastrous flood, the Caruthersville Humane Society (CHS) sprang into action to create an emergency animal shelter. CHS, along with the city of Caruthersville and Pemiscot County, called the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and others for help.
ASPCA Midwest Director of Field Investigations and Response Kyle Held arrived in Caruthersville on April 27 to take stock of the situation and help CHS develop a strategy. Held and CHS saw a need for a temporary shelter for animals whose families needed to evacuate the area, as well as for animals rescued from flooding.
Held’s first step was locating and preparing a facility for the shelter animals, animals whose families were evacuating and couldn’t take their pets, and stray animals whom members of the public dropped off.
Relocation and Sheltering
Held found a facility at the Delta Fairgrounds in Kennett, Missouri, about 20 miles from Caruthersville. The ASPCA and several shelter partners worked to bring all animals at CHS to the new facility. Held brought in a five-person ASPCA sheltering team to care for the animals as the community rode out the flood.
At first, one temporary shelter was enough, but soon, the facility was overwhelmed by animals—approximately 500—and the operation had to expand to two warehouses, with separate areas for dogs and cats, and a medical area with a full triage station. At the fairgrounds, responders were also caring for farm animals, including egg-laying hens, horses and a goat.
From our temporary supply distribution center in Memphis [link], set up in partnership with PetSmart Charities, Inc., the ASPCA sent the shelter in Kennett two trailers stocked with 260 wire crates, pet food and other emergency supplies.
Because emergency shelters for residents were not accepting animals, ASPCA responders visited them regularly to coordinate transferring evacuees’ animals to our temporary animal shelter.
Caruthersville ultimately dodged a river crest and severe devastation, but it did experience some flooding. In surrounding areas affected by floodwaters, the ASPCA performed field rescue, pulling stranded animals from the water.