October 31, 2016

“I Was So Happy To See Her”: ASPCA Helps Families Find Pets After Hurricane Matthew

Dick Green, the ASPCA’s Senior Director of Disaster Response, wasn’t surprised when the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services asked the ASPCA to support the Lumberton County search and rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

“The ASPCA spent about nine months in Lumberton last year for a large animal cruelty case, caring for 40 horses at the county fairgrounds, which were now completely underwater,” says Dick, who also fielded requests from officials in Georgia and South Carolina.

So ASPCA responders made their way to North Carolina, where the Lumber River had flooded, and made their way through flood waters in a 14-foot Jon boat.

“Everywhere we went, people asked us to rescue their animals,” Dick recalls. “The more animals we rescued, the more requests we received, which led to a number of happy reunions.”

Laura Smith and her daughter, Lacinda, 23, of Lumberton, were one of those happy endings. They were reunited with their Beagle mix, Ava, on October 24.

Ava has lived with Laura and Lacinda since April, when they rescued her off the streets. When flooding from Hurricane Matthew was imminent, Laura and Lacinda walked to a nearby fast food restaurant, where a bus took them to a local shelter for people fleeing the storm. 

Ava
Ava

Sadly, they were forced to leave Ava behind in their rental house, but left her plenty of food and water. After their first night in the shelter, relatives took in Laura and Lacinda until they could return home. During this time, Laura called authorities twice a day to ask them to check on Ava, who was soon rescued by ASPCA responders and taken to the Robeson County Animal Shelter.

Once Laura and Lacinda returned home, and their water and electricity was running again, they visited the shelter to retrieve Ava.

“I walked down the aisles looking for her, and suddenly, there she was, in her pink collar, looking at me like, ‘Where have you been?’” Laura recalled. “I broke down a little bit when we got home, I was so happy to see her. We are very blessed.”

Randy and Mary Faircloth also feel blessed, having recovered just this past weekend their five dogs at the Robeson County shelter, where animals initially rescued by the ASPCA have since been transported. And Janice Powell was reunited with her dachshund, Shawn, whom she had not seen since she evacuated her home.

Left, Randy Faircloth identifying his dogs. Right, Janice Powell with Shawn.
Left, Randy Faircloth identifying his dogs. Right, Janice Powell with Shawn.

Even as some animals left behind are now back in the folds of their families, others were abandoned altogether, turned loose to fend for themselves.

Teresa Roache, a public health nurse practitioner from Johnson City, Tennessee, had just deployed to Lumberton to care for local evacuated residents when she came upon a homeless dog.

“He was the first thing we saw when we pulled in that night,” recalls Teresa. “He was sleeping outside the shelter—in the bushes near the door. At first I thought he was dead. He looked pitiful.”

“He had a rope around his neck,” adds Teresa, who offered the skittish pooch food and water. “I tried to pet him a little and took the rope off. He looked at me as if to say, ‘You might be alright.’”

The next day, the dog was taken to a temporary animal shelter nearby. ASPCA responders named him Matthew after the hurricane—Matty for short. Teresa soon discovered he had been purposely abandoned by his family when they evacuated. 

Left, Matty, made homeless by Hurricane Matthew and adopted by Teresa Roache, at home. Right, Teresa and Mark Roache, Matty’s adopters.
Left, Matty, made homeless by Hurricane Matthew and adopted by Teresa Roache, at home. Right, Teresa and Mark Roache, Matty’s adopters.

“When I learned his family didn’t want him anymore—I wanted to take him home and give him a better life,” says Teresa, who texted her husband Mark pictures of Matty daily.

For the next week, as Teresa cared for the human victims of the storm—from infants to the elderly—she kept tabs on Matty through the ASPCA’s Disaster Response Manager, Lacie Davis. County officials gave Teresa the green light to adopt him when her deployment ended, and on October 19, Teresa retrieved Matty at a local veterinarian’s office, where he was being treated for diarrhea, for the five-hour drive back to Tennessee. 

Once home, Teresa and Mark introduced Matty to their other pets: a Weimaraner/Boxer/pit mix named Theo; Fes, a Corgi/Beagle mix; and cats Waffles, Albert and Chloe. “Everyone gets along,” Teresa reports.

The Roaches’ vet estimates Matty to be 10 years old, even though his canine and other front teeth are broken. He was also underweight, infested with fleas, and heartworm positive, issues they intend to treat. Matty’s eyesight also appears to be poor, as he relies on Theo for social cues and direction.

Matty is not Teresa and Mark’s first canine rescue. Their dog Leelo—14 ½-years-old, died in September—a month before Teresa was deployed.

“I feel it was meant to be in a weird way,” Teresa says. “I don’t think Matty has ever known sleeping in a house before now, but he’s learning very quickly.”

The ASPCA has assisted more than 1,200 animals through pre-evacuation, field rescue, transport and sheltering needs in Georgia and the Carolinas. Of those eventually transferred to the Robeson County Animal Shelter, 80 pets (67 dogs and 13 cats) are still waiting to be claimed.  Residents are urged to check the shelter’s Facebook page and visit the shelter in person at 255 Landfill Road, St. Pauls, North Carolina, if their pets are still missing.