WALKER – When the Great Flood of 2016 washed through, many volunteers within Livingston Parish were joined by those from other states to help rescue, treat, house and reunite pets with their owners.
The American Humane Association’s animal rescue team and two rescue vehicles rolled in to help. The country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877, did not forget Livingston Parish or the people it worked with.
On April 11, Walker Animal Control and Dog People of Livingston, a nonprofit dog rescue group, received checks for $16,000 and $13,000 respectively, from the American Humane Association to continue their work.
“Within a week of the flood, the American Humane were here. They brought in resources that helped us get back on our feet,” said Mary Gray, supervisor of the Walker Animal Shelter.
“Thank you to American Humane, for not only helping us immediately after the Flood of 2016 with volunteers and supplies, but also with grant monies to help repair our building and replace resources,” Gray said.
Dog People of Livingston and Walker Animal Control “jumped into action to help animals in need within mere hours of the heavy rainfall,” said Dr. Lesa Staubus, staff veterinarian with the American Humane Association, who made the presentations.
The Walker Animal Shelter began to flood, but with the help of Dog People of Livingston, they evacuated the shelter and moved the animals to safe ground, she said.
“The two organizations, along with other local agencies, set up an emergency shelter for animals that had been stranded or left homeless in the flooding, and worked tirelessly during and after the floods to reconnect animals with their owners.”
“Our parish has an enormous lost pet issue. With this grant we will launch the ‘Lost ... Found ... Home.’ Project,” said Lynelle Johnson, founder of Dog People of Livingston.
The all-volunteer group plans to host free microchipping clinics, distribute free identification tags to pet owners, expand its shelter to house more animals, open a food distribution center and lease digital billboard space on the highway to post pictures and information on pets lost in the parish.
Johnson said only five of almost 500 pets the group rescued or processed after the flood were microchipped.
“People get separated from their pets. Our goal is to put them together,” she said.
“When you lose everything, being reunited with your pet can be that one thing that keeps you going,” she said.
Several volunteers with Dog People of Livingston brought pets they adopted or are fostering to the event.
Buddy, a basset hound-pit bull mix, relaxed on the floor as Amanda Barnhill talked with Lisa Riggins, while border collie Luna nosed people to be petted.
“You prepare for a disaster with your family and you should prepare with your pets,” added Staubus, also a clinical assistant professor at Oklahoma State University.
“Have a collar with an ID tag and your phone number, have a microchip that is registered so we can reconnect” pets and owners, she said.
The Walker Animal Shelter suffered water damage and other damages related to animal overcapacity. Its grant will be used to repair water-damaged walls, treat for mold, replace damaged air-conditioning units, and get additional caging to house more displaced and lost pets.
“We’re a small city with a tight budget,” said Walker City Council member Scarlett Milton Major, who attended the check presentation. “Everything is appreciated.”
“A lot of renovation work was done at the shelter before the flood. It was heartbreaking,” when the flood hit, she said.
Major also offered pet recommendations often voiced by humane groups: “Spay or neuter your pet. Have them microchipped so they can be identified. Have a collar with an identification tag.”