Evacuating more than 100 pets from Glynn County Animal Control’s shelter on U.S. Highway 17 to the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross wouldn’t have been easy for veteran staff, but the shelter’s relatively green crew got it done.
“This was my first time leading an evacuation, and it was an experience,” said Tiffani Hill, animal control manager.
With Hurricane Dorian nearing the Golden Isles, animal control evacuated last Monday, Sept. 2, and came back on Thursday.
“The animals were back on Thursday, but we wanted to leave the place clean. We also had to send people back to start answering calls for service. The cleaning ended up taking into the evening Thursday and the middle of the day Friday,” Hill said. “... We’re still unpacking some of the trailers and getting the supplies reorganized and mounds and mounds of laundry caught up on.”
Out of Hill and her staff of eight animal control officers, only two had been working at the shelter during the 2017 evacuation from Hurricane Irma.
“It was eye-opening for a lot of my staff, since only two of the nine of us have been in a hurricane evacuation before,” Hill said.
All the animals had to be held in individual collapsible kennels for the duration of the evacuation, Hill said, which made cleaning difficult, and the temporary shelter had to be staffed constantly meaning long shifts for everyone.
“It was exhausting work, but they kept a smile on their faces,” Hill said.
All-around, the evacuation went smoothly, Hill said, and the temporary shelter itself was as calm and peaceful as a building full of recently-displaced pets could be.
“It was actually uneventful, considering all the possible things that could have gone wrong,” Hill said.
Volunteers turned out from both Waycross and Brunswick to help out with caring for the dogs, she said.
“We were joking that our dogs were getting walked 10 times a day and how spoiled they were getting. We don’t have that many volunteers at the shelter normally,” Hill said. “And they treated staff like royalty as well. Local businesses even sent food or supplies for the shelter pets or us, and we were really appreciative.”
Two rescue groups — Good Mews of Atlanta and McKamey Animal Center in Chattanooga — made the whole process a lot easier by taking more than 100 pets off the shelter’s hands before the evacuation even began.
Another rescue group picked up more dogs while they were taking shelter in Waycross.
“Thirteen more dogs went out. One of our staff rode to Tifton and met with a driver from Animal Ark, from Columbus, Ga., and they took 13 more dogs,” Hill said.
“All told, because of the hurricane, we had a total of 103 animals leave permanently into the care of other rescue groups. Which is wonderful, but it certainly doesn’t mean we had a lot of space. I think on our first day back, on Thursday, 10 more animals came in.”
As mentioned, Hill didn’t expect to have much room in the shelter for long despite coming back with less than half of its original population.
“There were calls for strays and abandoned animals when (the officers) came back into town to respond to calls,” Hill said.
Hill added that she took notes this time of way to improve the evacuation process.
“Knock on wood, should we have evacuation again,” Hill said.
Anyone looking to volunteer now that the emergency is over is more than welcome at the shelter.
A big adoption event originally planned to coincide with First Friday was canceled due to the evacuation and will be rescheduled, Hill added.
In addition, the shelter is hosting an emergency pet care training session in early November. For more information, call 912-554-7500.