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Sarasota Monday, Oct. 4, 2021 2 months ago

Hurricane pets find their way to local homes

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Humane Society of Sarasota County has been taking in pets from damaged shelters in Louisiana.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Larry and Dawn Labanics had been looking for a new dog for months.

The retired couple moved to Bradenton area from Atlanta slightly over a year ago and have spent half of that time looking for a sibling dog to go along with their small dog, Hope. They were hoping for a similar dog in size but routinely checking local shelter websites made it clear that small dogs were in high demand. 

Constant refreshing of the Humane Society of Sarasota County page finally paid off. The Labanics saw a listing for Tilly, a pug-and-terrier mix. She was the right size and looked just like their other dog — it seemed like a perfect fit. 

Tilly, though, wasn’t coming from a local resource exactly — she was on her way to the Humane Society of Sarasota County all the way from Louisiana. Shortly after she arrived at the Sarasota shelter, they picked her up and welcomed her into their home. 

"We're glad we were able to help out," Larry Labanics said. "It seemed like a lot of (shelters and animals) were in a bad place. Giving her a place was good for us."

The Humane Society has been busy taking in various cats and dogs from Louisiana shelters that were damaged or lacking after experiencing from Hurricane Ida. More than 10 cats and dogs were being delivered to the shelter each week.

“(Louisiana Shelters) have no electricity, no running water, animals are in crates stacked on top of each other,” said Rebecca Gustafson, Senior Director of Operations with HSSC.  “But more and more animals are coming in each day so they’re working as hard as they can to empty the space for the ones coming in. It’s a constant flow of animals. 

The Humane Society has worked in the past with the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations to coordinate receiving various animals throughout the response. Humane Society staff typically have a couple days before the animals arrive to find shelter space, organize medical and vet teams and prepare for the influx.

This hurricane response, in some ways, was easier for HSSC. Staff was able to utilize the new center and its larger kennel space to take in more animals than they had before. It also helps that animals are arriving from shelters with their vaccines up to date and medical information already available, rather than a situation like a hoarder with too many pets.

Vet staff have been at the center five days a week welcoming new animals, neutering them and getting them ready for adoption. Fortunately, Gustafson said the local community has matched the pace. 

“The faster the animals get adopted the more we can take in so having an extra kennel space really helps with these types of cases,” Gustafson said. “Now we can take large amounts of animals instead of just a few.

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