Not all heroes have superpowers, wear capes and fight crime.
Some drive vans on long, risky trips to disaster-stricken regions to rescue dogs from shelters overrun with pets. Others don sterile medical attire and take hold of the leashes to care for the dogs once they get to their new shelters — one of which, in this case, happens to be the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in Wainscott.
Staff members from ARF, as the shelter is known on the South Fork, returned Sunday from their second trip to hurricane-soaked Horry County, South Carolina, with 27 dogs displaced by the natural disaster. On their first trip last week, they rescued 25. ARF — which also rescued hundreds of dogs and cats from Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico when those regions were hit by natural disasters in the last couple of years — has a third trip to South Carolina planned this week.
ARF is “part of a network of shelters all across the country … who respond in situations like this to help communities deal with their homeless animals and do the right thing, the humane thing, and try to find them homes whenever possible,” said ARF executive director Scott Howe, who was one of the drivers to South Carolina. “That’s part of how ARF has grown” since it was founded in 1974, he said.
As Hurricane Florence approached the coast of South Carolina, Mr. Howe said, ARF’s rescue partners there wanted to pull dogs out of the shelters — “shelters that commonly euthanize for space,” he said — along the coast in counties that would soon be inaccessible. The dogs first went to foster families until ARF could arrive, which took a week before a safe route could be found that avoided Interstate 95, which was closed in North Carolina and South Carolina. The ARF volunteers saw swollen rivers and bent highway signs in the region.
“We knew with the storm coming, space would be at a premium, and that adoptable animals, homeless before the storm, would be at risk,” Mr. Howe said.
The Southampton Animal Shelter, along with Bideawee and Kent Animal Shelter, took in some of the dogs from ARF’s first rescue to make room for more trips south. Southampton also welcomed dogs from Second Chance NYC, a New York City-based shelter that also participated in the rescue. Flying Fur Animal Rescue, which is a team of volunteer pilots using their own planes, also pitched in to transport dogs locally.
“When natural disasters occur, the Southampton Animal Shelter stands ready to lend a hand to help out,” Jerry Rosenthal, Southampton’s executive director, said in a statement. “We may be a small shelter, but by partnering with other animal welfare organizations, we can have a significant impact in ensuring these helpless animals are kept from harm’s way.”
ARF also delivered donations of pet food and supplies to its partners in South Carolina. “They were down to their last six bags of food. So we really are making a difference for these communities,” Mr. Howe said.
Neither ARF nor Southampton were able to take in cats in the last week. Katie McEntee, Southampton’s director of adoptions, explained that many shelters are inundated with cats and kittens. She said Southampton will be able to make room for rescued cats soon.
“All the dogs are settled in,” she said. “We cleared them medically for adoption. We’re ready to find them great homes.”
ARF is also providing veterinary care for the rescued dogs.
“They come here and get a comprehensive exam,” Mr. Howe said. “We expect that there will be some common conditions you would expect to find when you are pulling animals in an emergency situation from a shelter … but they’re all going to be fine.”
He said if people want to support the shelter animals but cannot adopt one, they can donate or become shelter volunteers.
“We take in strays and surrenders of dogs in our own community … but also realize we have the capacity to help with the national problem of animals being euthanized in shelters for space,” he said. “That’s part of why Long Island is so special. It’s because there are so many great homes for these animals.”