Six months after Andrew, many pets in Fla. still homeless

February 19, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When it thunders outside the kennel, the dogs cower in the backs of their cages.

They still remember Hurricane Andrew, the killer storm that ravaged south Florida last August, destroying their homes and displacing their owners.

Nearly six months after the storm passed, the 120 dogs in the concrete facility near the West Palm Beach airport remain homeless. So do some 700 other dogs living with animal lovers under temporary "foster care" arranged by Pet Aid Andrew, an organization created by kennel clubs and others to place the pets.

Pet Aid endures from the days immediately after the hurricane, when dogs and cats were left behind by evacuees or were turned away at the tent cities. The only disaster relief for pets then was the opening of abandoned homes by National Guard troops so animals could get loose.

The resulting surge in strays overwhelmed the local humane societies, which began destroying dogs and other animals, said Pet Aid President Linda Gruskin of Fort Lauderdale.

Shocked by what they were seeing, Ms. Gruskin's group organized in the days after the disaster on the principle that it would shelter, not kill, the unclaimed pets. Run on private donations and housed in a defunct facility temporarily lent by the Palm Beach County Commission, the enterprise has cost $70,000 to run so far, Ms. Gruskin estimated.

The organization has placed in new homes ferrets, parrots and macaws, Nubian goats and even a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. There is one snake left, yellow and white, coiled in an aquarium at the shelter office. Dozens of cats purr in rooms nearby. But mostly there are dogs -- hundreds of them, all in need of homes.

There are the poodles, 10 weeks old, born to a mother who arrived at the shelter pregnant. Pure white except for the pink inside their ears, they are small enough that they poke nearly their entire faces through a chain-link gate as a visitor happens past.

Outside the main building, behind one of the rows of kennel doors, Joey, a little Lhasa apso with tufts of white hair on the sides of his face, nods his head back and forth with the quizzical look of a scientist. And Tiny, at 18 months a mere pup of a Great Dane, stands silent, with the narrow chest and worn-down expression of a tired old man.

Pet Aid, whose shelter and foster arrangements cannot continue permanently, has begun asking American Kennel Club affiliates around the country to take individual dogs and adopt them out locally.

For information on adopting a hurricane dog or donating to Pet Aid Andrew, call (305) 473-0580. The group's address is 13930 Luray Rd., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 33330.

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