Shelter set up for displaced pets

EMPORIA — The tri-color beagle wagged his tail, appearing happy to be getting some attention Sunday at a makeshift shelter set up for animals displaced by a nearby tornado.

The beagle and several other dogs — nine from one home alone — took up residence at the Lyon County Fairgrounds after a twister hit the small town of Reading on Saturday night.

Pet rescuers led the beagle, labeled No. 12 with a bright yellow tag, into a crate.

He studied everyone carefully, accepting pats on the head.

In about an hour, volunteers cleared out part of a fairgrounds building filled with cages for rabbits and chickens and the like and brought in more comfy crates, water and food.

They set up crates on wooden platforms to keep animals off the ground and filled stainless-steel water bowls.

Midge Grinstead, a board member of the Kansas State Animal Response Team, and Peggy Derrick, manager of the city animal shelter in Emporia, said they didn't know how many animals would need temporary homes.

"This first few days is going to be the tip of the iceberg," Derrick said Sunday afternoon.

The Emporia shelter took in five dogs and two cats Saturday night after the EF3 tornado struck Reading, north of Emporia.

Derrick was able to return one dog to its family Sunday morning, she said.

Some animals were too spooked Saturday night to catch, she said.

The ones the shelter rescued "were friendly enough that they were looking for people."

Christen Skaer, a Wichita veterinarian who is president of the state animal response team, said there were two severely injured animals, one dog and one cat, that she knew of Sunday night.

"We're providing some animal care and treating for fleas," she said.

Grinstead said the goal is to get displaced animals to the shelter and identified if possible.

Volunteers will care for the animals until they can be picked up by their owners.

The Sedgwick County Animal Response Team was on hand Sunday, setting up the shelter.

The need for such teams became apparent after the 2007 tornado that wiped out Greensburg.

"Greensburg was a real eye-opener," Grinstead said.

Reading residents who can't care for their pets can take them to the fire station in Reading. Volunteers will then transport the animals to the fairgrounds.

Families staying at the American Red Cross shelter at the Emporia Senior Center can take animals directly to the fairgrounds, a news release from the Kansas Adjutant General's Office said.

The Emporia animal shelter will handle displaced cats.

Derrick said the shelter has 44 kennels for dogs and that many for cats.

"We're full right now," she said.

Derrick made her four cats go to the basement of their home Saturday night during the bad weather.

She keeps crates for them downstairs, labeled with emergency information, for just such situations.

The cats weren't so happy about the whole thing.

"Oh, they were mad," she said.