Three months after Superstorm Sandy made landfall, devastating parts of New York and New Jersey, thousands of victims still await aid from the government, while lost animals wait to be found by their owners.
Now, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is encouraging pet owners uprooted by the Oct. 29 storm to visit its temporary shelter in Brooklyn and reclaim their missing pets.
"After 45-plus days in an emergency shelter environment, these pets really need to get in a home," said Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA Field and Investigations Department. "It's not healthy physically or mentally. We're trying to get these guys out of here and get them into forever homes."
At last count, there are 137 pets awaiting possible reunions with their owners. So far, the boarding facility has been successful in reuniting many of the pets displaced by Sandy.
Six weeks ago, the ASPCA opened the boarding facility as a temporary emergency shelter serving the needs of animals seven days a week in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. About 300 pets - mostly dogs and cats - were taken in. As the shelter prepares to close down its temporary operation, Rickey and his team are trying to find these pets permanent homes.
"We've talked to folks who have been struggling for the last month and a half to come and get their pet," said Rickey. "For some, tonight will be the first night their family has been complete since Superstorm Sandy hit."
In the days after Sandy, when pet owners weren't walking through the doors, the not-for-profit corporation took a grassroots approach to connect owners and their pets by posting flyers, creating public service announcements and uploading photos of lost animals through the website Animal Care and Control of New York City's lost pets. As the ASPCA winds down its Brooklyn operations, it's also encouraging owners who are unable to come to the shelter to search online for their four-legged companions.
"We want to give residents every opportunity to be reunited with their pets," said Rickey. "We're hoping to see a lot of folks throughout the weekend."
Through this large-scale effort, the ASPCA has been able to shelter 300 animals. Of that number, many dogs were treated for upper respiratory issues by close to 50 veterinarians from New York City Veterinary Emergency Response Team and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT).
The ASPCA ran field rescue operations in the earliest days post-Sandy, saving more than 300 pets from homes of evacuated owners in New Jersey and New York. The ASPCA set up mobile wellness clinics to some of the most severe areas, providing free vet services including flea medication, physical exams and vaccinations. It also distributed 40 tons of pet supplies to pet owners heavily affected by the storm. Overall, the ASPCA was able to help and provide care to 30,000 pets.
"We have everything from Labradors, Pit bulls to Poodles - any type of dog you could imagine," said Rickey. "These operations could not be done without a large medical presence."
Rickey, along with 500 volunteers from the organization and outside agencies from across the country, combed the hardest-hit areas of New Jersey and the outer city boroughs, starting in mid-November. Teams from Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania have worked around the clock to volunteer.
"We do this because we're compassionate about the animals and the human-animal bond," said Rickey. "It's important for us to provide that safe haven for pets."