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Greenville teacher on the ground in Florida, helping RedRover care for shelter animals and displaced pets after Ian

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(Photo: designwallah on Flikr via Creative Commons)
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File photo: Stray dog after a storm.

An organization dedicated to helping pets in crisis, as well as their people, is on the ground in Lee County, Florida, helping with recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian, and an eastern North Carolina teacher is one of the volunteers.

RedRover Director of Field Services Beth Gammie said the organization is helping care for cats and dogs that were in the shelter before the storm and also for an influx of lost and found animals afterward.

Over the past couple of decades, Gammie said the relationship between people and their pets has changed greatly – particularly in response to disasters like Ian and the wildfires out west.

“The days when people thought it would be okay to pour out a bag of dog food and a big bucket of water, those attitudes are changing and it’s not really safe for the animals to be left behind,” she said.

Gammie said research shows that 45-50 percent of pet owners would refuse to evacuate if they had to leave their animals behind.

One of the volunteers helping out at the Lee County Domestic Animal Services Shelter is a fifth-grade teacher from Pitt County, Jamie Carlson.

“I would be the same,” she said, “If I couldn’t bring my pets with me, I wouldn’t leave either.”

According to the ASPCA, about 250,000 dogs and cats were displaced or died as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; Carlson said the stark reality of that horrible situation is what led to some changes. The PETS Act was signed by President George W. Bush about a year after Katrina, and it mandated that local government include pets in their disaster planning.

As for the animals the Greenville educator is caring for, Carlson said they’re definitely appreciative of the volunteers who are there.

“They’re racing up and down the fences and using the bathroom – they’re just feeling so much better,” she said, “Just to bring a little bit of normalcy to them and to have some human contact because the animals are stressed out, too.”

RedRover also compiles a list of pet-friendly shelters in areas that may be impacted by each approaching storm. Check them out online at www.redrover.org.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. She has been involved in the media industry in eastern North Carolina for more than three years. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to ENC to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of toddler and baby cuddling, reading, designing costumes for children’s theater and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.