No room at inn for pets

No room at inn for pets

May 10th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Rebel lies in his cage at Puppy Love Kennel. Rebel's home was destroyed by a tornado, and the kennel is offering to house displaced animals. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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ON THE WEB

•Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care has a link to a Facebook page trying to reconnect missing pets and their owners available here.

• See the latest storm resources here.

The night after a tornado decimated the Ringgold Days Inn where she lived, Sandy Ingram and her family had a choice to make.

Workers at the storm shelter at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School were happy to help the family, but said the Ingrams' pit bull Rebel and Chihuahuas Geminii and Zero were not allowed inside.

Looking at the dogs, agitated and scared after the ordeal, Ingram decided she would sleep outside with her pets that night.

"They've never had to do without us. They were really freaking out," she said. "People have the sense to know what was going on. The animals just know their owners are just trying to cover them up [to protect from the storm]."

The next day, the Ingrams were able to board the dogs and, though they've been able to bring Geminii and Zero back to the motel room where they're staying, Rebel remains at the kennel.

"As soon as I get me a vehicle, oh, yes, I'm going to go get my dog," said Ingram, who lost both of her family's cars to damage from the tornado.

The Ingrams are not the only family dealing with the delicate, heart-wrenching logistics of caring for pets after a disaster.

Althea Isbill, who runs Puppy Love Kennels in Fort Oglethorpe where Rebel is staying, said she has six or seven dogs that belong to storm victims who are staying in temporary housing where dogs or cats are not allowed.

All of the animals have come in terrified, she said.

"They don't understand why they're separated from their homes," Isbill said. "It's hard on them."

The McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center in Hamilton County is distributing food to many pet owners who lost their homes or don't have transportation to get food for their animals. The center is holding 10 pets for owners displaced by storms.

"It's very stressful for pets," said McKamey spokeswoman Karen Walsh. "They really do struggle with a complete change in routine."

And those are dogs and cats whose owners know where they are.

Alison Smith, manager at the Walker County Animal Shelter, said she has a dachshund and an Australian shepherd that were brought in with shiny new collars but she hasn't been able to track down the owners.

"I know she had to be a little lapwarmer for someone," Smith said of the dachshund.

Nancy Frye, treasurer for Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care, said her group is trying to help reunite missing pets with their owners through a Facebook page link on its website www.catoosacitizensforanimalcare.org.

"That's just now starting to come in," she said. "This is not going to be over in a week or two."

Ronnie Page, animal control officer for the city of Trenton, Ga., said he hasn't seen too many strays yet, but expects there to be plenty of missing dog reports in the coming days.

"I feel like it's going to be a bigger problem going on," he said. "They're more or less like people - they kind of hid back."

One pet owner happy to be reunited with his animals is Trenton resident Andy Page, whose photo with his cat Ellie outside their devastated apartment circulated in newspapers nationwide last week, including the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Page said he found all three of his adult cats and four out of five kittens alive.

"They're all doing fine," he said.

Page is staying with friends in Chattanooga who don't mind the feline company, but he's not sure what the next step will be for him, Ellie, Milo and Lilly.

"It's still up in the air," he said.

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.