The tornadoes that recently ripped through the area destroying many people's homes also left some animals without a place to live. Dr. John Mullins in Ooltewah is caring for eight cats with nowhere to call home anymore.
"Since they were living underneath a home that was no longer there, we couldn't leave them to their own defenses," said Sabrina Novak, assistant leader for Hamilton County Disaster Animal Response Team.
She, Mullins and the rest of the 18-member team were called in just after the storms to assess needs. They delivered cat and dog food, helped catch and corral loose livestock, found shelter for animals displaced by the events and buried those who didn't weather the storm from their vulnerable position outdoors.
"A lot of houses we went to weren't there," said Mullins, adding that the local devastation is worse than what he saw as a responder after Hurricane Charlie. "There's a whole range of socio-economic situations out there - people with unlimited resources and their houses are demolished; then there's people that started out with nothing and now they really have nothing."
Mullins said the man who gave up the cats was sleeping on a mattress on an exposed concrete slab.
"If you want to donate money to local shelters ... it's a good way to support displaced animals from things like this ... because a lot of times when you have animals displaced and they can't become reunited with their owner they get placed in a shelter," Novak said.
She said an emergency animal shelter was set up in Cleveland at the Tri-State Exhibition Center and advised those who have lost animals to check there. Even large animals like horses and cows were accepted. Those who find animals in the immediate area that do not have identification tags should call Luther with Sunny 92.3 at 321-6200 or local animal shelters, she said.
Novak said she doesn't see the need for a local emergency shelter. Team members have already located temporary housing at some of the stables in the area, she said. Barn Owl Feed store in Apison donated items to help capture horses loose in the area.
She said donations of food and other necessities are still helpful. PetSmart is collecting pet food at both its locations and has volunteers to distribute it to those in need. To find out more, stop by the store at 2130 Gunbarrel Road or call 899-9223.
Anyone interested in giving one or some of the cats Mullins is nursing back to health a home should call him at 910-9956.
In the event of future disasters, volunteers who have experience working with companion animals and livestock are encouraged to join the county DART team, which also responds to the immediate vicinity if needed. For more information, contact Novak at 209-8390.