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Cats from storm-impacted shelters charter flight to Massachusetts to make space for displaced animals

More than 100 cats, took off for Massachusetts in an early morning flight.
More than 100 cats, took off for Massachusetts in an early morning flight.

The Atlantic Aviation tarmac at the Louisville airport is used to handling chartered flights. On Wednesday morning, they had some very special passengers to attend to.

More than 100 cats.

These felines are from various shelters across Kentucky in areas affected by last weekend's devastating tornadoes.

“Our whole goal is to help empty shelters in crisis, so they can make more room for incoming animals who have been displaced by storms or given up by the owners because the owners can’t take care of them if they lost their homes, for example,” Andrea Blair, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Humane Society, said. 

Blair said that the Humane Society has been working with ASPCA’s disaster response team to help transport animals from shelters in impacted areas to Louisville, in order to get space cleared as soon as possible.

Once in Louisville, there was more time to plan and find places that had space to take the animals.

The felines who flew out Wednesday morning were heading to Massachusetts, where Blair said there was much more room because of their spay and neuter programs.

Tim Perciful, the disaster response manager for the ASPCA, explained some of the ways animals are impacted following natural disasters.

“When devastation happens to the house, you may have an indoor animal that has never been outside, so now they’re lost and scared so they may go and hide,” Perciful said. “Now they don’t have a family to take care of them.”

While dogs and cats have been the main focus of the Humane Society and ASPCA’s recent efforts, Perciful said that livestock was also deeply harmed by natural disasters.

“It’s tragic for both people and animals,” Perciful said.

Blair said that since Saturday the Humane Society has taken in more than 180 animals from the areas hit hardest. According to her, they are transporting animals, in some form, every day.

Multiple ground transportations of dogs are also ongoing. On Tuesday, around 20 dogs were moved from the Humane Society to an ASPCA run-facility and there are plans for more ground transport through the rest of the week.

As the shelters across western Kentucky make space for displaced animals, it is unclear when reunification efforts will begin.

Perciful said that right now people are still in shock from what they experienced. He offered advice for when they are ready to find their missing pets.

“Don’t give up on trying to find your animals. Keep contacting,” Perciful said. “When those efforts start happening, people are gonna be working really hard to try and find your animal and try and reunite you with them. ”

Perciful said that sometimes people don’t recognize their pets when they’ve experienced a disaster. They could have become emaciated or matted in the time they were separated, but the pet will recognize the people.

Both Blair and Perciful said people wishing to help can give monetary donations to the shelters in the affected areas.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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