Animal lovers rescue dogs from storm-ravaged areas

Tom Abraham (holding Chihuahua Mix Church - from Texas), son Devin, wife Alyssa Stafford (holding Chihuahua Mix Bruno - from Texas) and daughter Dahlia. At right is Kim Skidmore, the founder of Pound Pals. All three of the adults are board members with Pound Pals and volunteers with the animal shelter. The kids also volunteer at the shelter and Alyssa is shelter manager.

Dave Gorgon
– Special to Riverview Register

When Hurricane Harvey ravaged parts of our nation’s south in August 2017, it caused an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. That’s more than any other natural disaster in U.S. history other than Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

Hurricane Harvey affected 13 million people from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. More than 200,000 homes were damaged. Flooding forced about 39,000 people out of their homes and into shelters. A million motor vehicles were destroyed. At least 88 people died.

  And countless pets were left ownerless and homeless. Many died or were euthanized.

“A lot of areas were begging the rest of the country to help them so they could help these animals that were displaced by the flooding,” said Alyssa Stafford, manager of the Downriver Central Animal Control, which oversees stray dogs and cats in Wyandotte, Southgate and Allen Park.

Stafford, a Riverview resident, reached out to Jenny Moore, a former Michigan resident who moved to Texas, to ask how the Downriver group could help. A partnership was formed.

Downriver Central works in conjunction with the non-profit rescue organization Pound Pals Downriver, which was founded by Kim Skidmore of Riverview. The shelter works in partnership with the City of Wyandotte and the Wyandotte Police Department.

Like Skidmore, Stafford and her husband Tom Abraham are also Pound Pals board members and are among 90 volunteers at the Wyandotte Animal Shelter.

Downriver Central and Pound Pals soon became part of a network of rescue groups and shelters that began accepting animals that were picked up in Texas by Bottle Babies Rescue, which is based in Allen Park. Bottle Babies volunteers start with about 40 dogs and deliver them to various states, ending their journey in Wyandotte.

Stafford said the Downriver volunteers agreed to assist with smaller-breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos and Wire-Haired Terriers families. While larger stray dogs were often plentiful at the Wyandotte shelter at 1170 Grove – and were generally the hardest to get adopted—the Downriver group often had kennel space for pets 20 pounds or less, which are often the most popular among people looking to adopt a dog.

“Most of the dogs we get (from the Downriver area) are larger breed dogs,” said Stafford, who lives in Riverview.  “We had smaller cages free, so we figured that would be the easiest way for us to help.”

The Wyandotte Animal Shelter has eight large kennels and four designed for smaller breeds. Cats are plentiful.

The connection between a shelter and a rescue organization is not unique. Skidmore said Pound Pals was founded in 2006 at a time when there was a need for a non-profit agency to provide funding to help sick and injured animals at shelters.

“There was no funding for medical care,” she said. “Animals were being euthanized.”

Before Pound Pals’ efforts, about 80 percent of animals at the shelter were euthanized. Now, it’s down to less than 10 percent.

At the time Pound Pals was founded, there was a handful of volunteers. The group has blossomed to about 90 volunteers who provide transportation to animal clinics, cleaning, grooming, dog walking, pet adoptions and much more. Medical attention is significant. Fundraising activities keep the operations going.

A spay/neuter policy was implemented to reduce the animal population.

Abraham said the animal adoption center places at least 600 animals in homes every year. On a regular basis, stray dogs and cats are taken to the intake facility at 14300 Reaume Parkway in Southgate. Once the animals are assessed and receive medical care, they move to Wyandotte for adoption.

The Texas-Downriver connection remains strong today as dogs are plentiful. Abraham, who is vice president of Pound Pals, said the transportation from the Houston area and delivery of four to 10 dogs at a time continues monthly.

“We keep in contact with them so that we know when the shuttles are coming and which dogs need rescuing,” Abraham said. “What we learned since Harvey is that that area is always overwhelmed with small-breed dogs that get euthanized if they didn’t get transported to other areas for adoption. We learned they are always overwhelmed so we do what we can to help out.”

Abraham said animals from Texas arrive with necessary vaccinations, spay or neutering and heartworm-tested. The Downriver volunteers verify they have all the necessary paperwork and make them available for adoption.

Animal adoption hours in Wyandotte are 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Adoption fees are $65 per cat and $95 per dog.

Photos of available dogs and cats are posted on the Wyandotte Animal Shelter Facebook page.

Stafford said those who stop by the shelter looking for a smaller dog also look at larger breeds during the visit, which increases the chances for adoption of larger dogs.

To get involved with Pound Pals, visit the shelter and fill out a volunteer form.

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