Nearly a hundred pets were reclaimed by their owners yesterday after a severe flood ravaged Iowa, while many more animals kept in makeshift emergency shelters wait to be reunited.

The number of pet-owner reunions at a shelter in Cedar Rapids is expected to grow in the coming days, as more victims begin assessing damage to their homes and finding temporary accommodations.

"[Owners] are now making plans for themselves and their pets, so we'll continue to see larger numbers of people reclaim their animals," said Scotlund Haisley, senior director of emergency services for the Humane Society of the United States.

Last week rescue workers from several private animal-welfare agencies, including the Humane Society, descended on the city after the Cedar River breached levees, filling streets with dark swirling water and forcing 24,000 people to evacuate.

With the water now receded, city officials estimate damages to reach U.S. $736 million.

So far, animal workers have responded to more than a thousand requests to search abandoned homes for pets left behind or missing.

Survivors are brought to the Kirkwood Community College's equestrian center, which will continue to house displaced and rescued pets for at least several more weeks, said Randy Ackman, assistant professor of animal health technologies at the college.

Veterinary technician students - as well as dozens of veterinarians from around the state - are pitching in to help care for the storm-shaken animals, he said.

Six other emergency animal shelters throughout Iowa are also housing about 350 pets displaced or rescued from the floods.


Upon arrival each animal is given a physical exam, a flea and tick preventative, and if needed, is vaccinated for rabies.

As of yesterday, 875 pets - including birds, lizards, rabbits, and rats - were housed on campus and cared for by an army of animal-welfare workers, most of whom are unpaid volunteers.

Diann Wellman is a regional director for the United Animal Nations' Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS).

In its 21-year history, the group has responded to more than 80 natural disasters and other crises, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she said.

For Wellman, the most difficult part of this disaster is seeing families forced to give up their animals because they're either too overwhelmed or can't find temporary pet-friendly housing.

"Usually we're crying right along with them because it's just so heartbreaking," she said.

"They've lost their home. They've lost their belongings. Now they have to give up their pet."

The United Animal Nations, which runs the EARS program, is offering Lifeline Crisis Relief Grants to help flood victims with expenses for veterinary care and temporary boarding.

Cat Challenge

The Humane Society's Haisley said the majority of animals plucked from the putrid water and found huddled inside abandoned homes were cats, which made the rescue efforts much more difficult and time-consuming.

Cats instinctively hide to protect themselves, making it challenging not only for rescue workers to find them but for owners when trying to evacuate.

That's why it's important to plan ahead to keep you and your pets safe during a disaster, Wellman of EARS said.

She recommends practicing loading your pets inside your vehicle and pre-packing an emergency bag with a three-day supply of pet food, water, and supplies.

"If you need to evacuate your house in a hurry you can just grab that bag and go," she said. "A lot of people don't think about it."