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Pets are among those displaced by North Dakota's flooding (but they're in good hands)

March 31, 2009 |  7:58 pm

The recent North Dakota flooding took its toll not only on the human residents it displaced, but on their pets as well.  Makeshift shelters have sprung up to care for the pets left behind as their owners headed for higher ground.  The Associated Press reports:

Almost 200 dogs, cats, horses, potbelly pigs — even a goat and a mule — are hunkered down in a fairgrounds pavilion, cared for by volunteers after their owners had to make the agonizing decision to leave them behind.

Emergency shelters and many hotels don't accept pets, and neighbors and friends taking in evacuees often don't have room for their pets, too. That has led to a lot of tears at Red River Valley Fairgrounds Animal Shelter.

"These are their four-legged babies. It's like leaving their children behind," said Nukhet Hendricks, executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society. "It's been very emotional."

The Humane Society, along with Adopt-A-Pet and emergency managers in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., turned a pavilion normally used for horse and cattle shows into a flood shelter and started accepting pets late last week. ...

By Sunday, the shelter housed 71 dogs, 79 cats, 37 horses and a variety of other furry evacuees. Another 200 "pocket pets" such as guinea pigs, birds and rabbits were being housed at the Red River Zoo in Fargo. North Dakota State University's Horse Park had between 200 and 300 horses.

Fortunately for the displaced animals, North Dakota veterinarians and humane society officials began working on an emergency plan for animals after Hurricane Katrina hit.

"We wanted to be proactive," explained Thomas Colville, the director of North Dakota State University's veterinary technology department. "We wanted to let people know that they don't have to leave their animals behind in a disaster." 

Volunteers, some traveling from as far as Sacramento to help North Dakota's pet population, have pitched in to make sure the animals are taken care of in their owners' absence.  A team of veterinarians has been working at the shelters as well, and each animal has received an inspection to ensure it's in good health.

--Lindsay Barnett

Video: Associated Press

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