Palm Beach County animal rescue groups are teaming up to help pets in need in flooded areas of South Carolina as one of their volunteers travels there to work directly on rescue efforts.
“We’re still rescuing animals locally in South Florida. We’re still doing work in Palm Beach County. We’re taking owner surrenders when we can," said Deven Soto, director of Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue. "But in a time of natural disaster, our community wants to help. Our South Florida community, they are strong and they want to do something.”
Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue along with Big Dog Ranch Rescue and Pet Haven Rescue have been collecting supplies this week to send up to South Carolina with Jessica Nicodemo, of Pet Haven, as she assists with rescuing animals from flooded areas following Hurricane Florence. They've collected canoes, life vests, waders, batteries among other supplies needed for rescues.
“I’ll do anything and everything to get the mission done and keep the animals safe and help the pet owners of Marion County and South Carolina," Nicodemo said.
For the last year, Nicodemo, has been back and forth between Florida and places that have been devastated by hurricanes. She's spent time in Puerto Rico, the Keys, the West Coast of Florida and Texas.
“The storm hits and we just feel like hey we’ve done it so many times we’ve got to keep going," she said.
This time, her mission is in Mullins, SC, where various animal rescue groups from around the country are setting up a staging area for animals seeking refuge from flooding, which is expected to worsen through the weekend.
"It’s not going to be easy but saving lives, it’s worth it," Nicodemo said. "It’s worth it. They would do it for us. I know they would.”
"Think about it. If it would’ve happened to us, they would’ve been here for us," said Peter Torres, CEO of Justin Bartlett Animal Rescue.
Local rescue groups will collect more supplies from the community once they figure out exactly what’s needed in the most desperate areas. People can donate financially in the meantime at this link: https://www.paypal.me/helpingheartbeats
“It’s very devastating," said Carole Chapuis, founder of Pet Haven Rescue. "You really don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re there.”
“It’s so important because that community is in need," said Deb Hilton, of Big Dog Ranch Rescue, which already took in dogs from shelters in the Carolinas. "Our community right now is safe. They’re not.”
In Boynton Beach, Colonial Gateway Veterinary Center has been collecting donations of pet supplies over the past week. They’re accepting pet food, toys, beds, water bowls as well as cleaning supplies.
“What we’re trying to do is get some donations for the forgotten kids out there," said Dr. Tiffany Paul. "A lot of times in storms like this, the animals are the ones that suffer as well as the people and they don’t get all of the donations and things like that that people usually do, so we wanted to do our part.”
Because the devastation is still evolving, Colonial Gateway is planning to continue collecting items until they get some guidance on exactly where to take all of it.
Colonial Gateway Veterinary Center is located at 127 East Woolbright Road and 2235 North Federal Highway.