Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jackson Hole Airport (KJAC), Teton County, Wyoming: Furry evacuees fly in

Wind howled and rain fell as Amanda Penn walked Darby, a 5-month-old husky mix, from a small plane to a warm car on the tarmac at Jackson Hole Aviation.

“It’s been a big day,” Penn said to the puppy as she tucked her inside a crate. “But it’s about to get better. I promise.”

Five dogs, including Darby, and 10 kittens had just flown 1,800 miles from Louisiana to find new homes through the Animal Adoption Center in Jackson.

Penn, the operations supervisor at the adoption center, along with Jess Farr, from Paws of Jackson Hole went to the airstrip Thursday to meet Julie Hugel and her plane full of animals seeking refuge from the hurricanes and flooding affecting the South.

“When the disaster happened [Hugel] stepped forward and said, ‘Let’s bring as many animals as we can and fill the plane,’” Animal Adoption Center Executive Director Carrie Boynton said.

Darby was found on a Texas highway before Take Paws, a rescue center in New Orleans, gave her shelter. The other dogs on the plane were also from Take Paws, which partnered with the Animal Adoption Center and The Inner Pup of New Orleans to bring the animals to Jackson.

Jonas, a 9-month-old Lab mix, was dumped with his siblings. Nettie, a 1 1/2-year-old terrier-dachshund mix, was found as a stray with a litter of puppies. Pebbles is a small 6-month-old Italian greyhound-terrier mix. Jasper, a 1 1/2-year-old Chihuahua mix, was rescued from a kill shelter after being scheduled for euthanasia.

The 10 felines that made the trip are kittens and young cats, most of them rescued from hoarding situations by Big Sky Ranch in Texas, Boynton said.

Boynton said there’s a demand for smaller breeds in the valley that can’t always be found in the surrounding shelters and rescues. By bringing in smaller, younger animals from the Southern shelter system the team was able to bring in more animals.

“It’s wonderful to be able to help animals find forever homes while also making room for dogs that have been displaced as a result of a natural disaster,” she said.

The Inner Pup, a nonprofit run by part-time Jackson resident Lindsay Goldring, initiated the transport.

“They helped us build a collaboration to get dogs from the Southern flooding up to higher ground,” Boynton said.

Shuffling out of shelters

During natural disasters, specifically hurricanes, many pets are left behind. People will leave their dogs in kennels at home or tied up outside, Goldring said.

“There’s a lot of animal control personnel that have to go in and save those dogs, but they need a place to put them,” she said.

Goldring estimated that thousands of animals were directly affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, though no concrete number has been released. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed or stranded.

Typically The Inner Pup focuses on education, but as Hurricane Harvey approached Texas it received desperate calls from partner organizations.

When Katrina hit Louisiana, Texas organizations provided the same support, she said.

“We reached our hands back to Texas and opened an immediate disaster-relief station outside of New Orleans,” Goldring said.

Now, in New Orleans, shelters always seem to be full, she said.

“It’s because of us that we’re over breeding and over populating and filling up the shelters,” she said. “When something like this happens we don’t know where to put these dogs.”

The animals that were in shelters before the storms need to be evacuated to make room for the pets that have been rescued by animal control in the floodwaters.

“There’s this big shuffle that happens,” she said.

In some areas, adoptable animals are evacuated to other shelters to make room for displaced pets. In other areas, Goldring said, that space was made with euthanasia.

“A lot of the shelters in Louisiana were clearing house so dogs from Texas could fit in Louisiana,” she said.

Take Paws and The Inner Pup collaborated to relocate some of the dogs slated for euthanasia, which is how dogs like Darby and Nettie made it to Jackson. Their relocation out of the South made room for animals displaced by the flooding — and got them off death row.

“The shuffle went everywhere,” Goldring said. “Everyone has opened their doors, which is incredible.”

Goldring, a current board member and former executive director of the Animal Adoption Center, said there was a time when the mission of the center was to keep everything local. But the center has found that pulling dogs from other communities has offered adopters the breeds and types of dogs they’re looking for, curbing the temptation to find a dog at a breeder.

“It’s an opportunity for us to compete with breeders a bit,” she said.

New homes in Jackson

Once the dogs and cats arrived at the adoption center on East Broadway, they were settled into their temporary home. Energetic puppies played in the outdoor yard, and kittens cuddled in quarantine while Penn busied herself with paperwork.

“They come with all different kinds of medical records, and we try to make sense of it and make sure there’s nothing we need to update them on,” Penn said.

The canine arrivals came up-to-date on vaccines, including distemper, bordetella and parvovirus, and they were heartworm negative, making them able to head home with foster families their first night in town. While in Jackson they will be vaccinated for rabies, if of the appropriate age, and spayed or neutered.

Penn said there has already been interest in adopting some of the dogs.

The felines are placed in quarantine for two weeks to curb any illness that may have popped up from the stress of travel, Penn said. It provides shelter staff time to spay or neuter the kittens and vaccinate them before they’re adopted.

When the dogs first arrived, some were timid and scared. Travel is stressful, Penn said, and the dogs and cats aren’t coming from good environments to start.

“It’s so sad because they have no idea what’s going on, and I can’t explain it to them,” Penn said.

Jonas, the Lab mix puppy, stiffened his body at the door of the plane. He was scared to go down the steps and with Penn.

But once he got into the playpen he started zooming around, offering wet kisses to whoever would stop.

“You see a huge transformation from being completely shut down and terrified to, after a couple days, these awesome personalities,” Penn said.

It’s amazing to be part of the effort, Boynton said.

“We’re so blessed to have this facility and be able to fill it with animals that need the help,” she said.

Goldring said the partnership and connection with the Animal Adoption Center is incredible.

“Without it [the animals] would not have had another chance,” she said.

It’s such a better life for them outside of the South, she said. Especially for a high-energy husky like Darby.

“A dog like that deserves to be in Jackson,” she said.

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