Furry Friends Find Port in Storm
Like the majority of cats, domestic shorthair Nathan hates water. So when Hurricane Irene flood warnings hit the news, his owner, Xiomara Estevez, took action.
"I bought the cat life vest at PetCo," Estevez, 17, said. "It was around almost $30. When you put it on him, it's already inflated. He glares at me, but he doesn't do much to take it off."
Estevez is just one of millions of pet owners in New York City who weathered Saturday night's storm with a furry friend. Humans and animals alike endured blaring sirens, pounding rain and winds of up to 65 miles per hour. For some residents, the racket in the night was a bit intimidating; for some animals, it was just too much.
"I tried to look into his brown eyes and explain to him, "This might be a little scary," Noreen Dean Dresser, 59, said of Mr. Micheal, her 5-year-old Cocker Spaniel.
Ikin Robinson, 29, said his two Pit Bulls spent the evening like many other pets, scared and in the corner.
Yet not all four-pawed New Yorkers were frightened. Richard Gentles, 48, Director of Development at Animal Care and Control (ACC), said his charges were relatively calm throughout the ordeal. The ACC Staten Island branch had to be evacuated, and some animals were relocated to shelters in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Still, there was no panic or lack of space at the ACC Harlem shelter on East 110th Street, even though Gentles and his employees had to accommodate about 30 additional animals displaced during the bad weather. At the organization's Brooklyn center, cats and dogs rode out the storm side-by-side with a 7-foot python police brought in after a call.
Image Courtesy of Animal Care and Control
"The animals slept better than we did, I think," Gentles said.
Though community members contributed money online and donated dog biscuits and blankets to the ACC, the aid is not enough to cover the full costs of the storm. According to Gentles, the Harlem shelter alone spent an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 in preparation for Hurricane Irene, stocking up on food and other resources. The organization was also forced to pay staff overtime, a cost which accounts for the majority of the overall sum. The ACC will apply for FEMA emergency grants in the hopes of recuperating lost funds.
Hurricane evacuation shelters designed for humans were also prepared to take in animals. Volunteer Mark Davis at the shelter on West 114th Street said the building was stocked with crates and muzzles for mammals, as well as tanks and cages for any reptilian visitors. The shelter ended up being over prepared evacuees did not bring any pets.
Gisele Page, 48, was one such evacuee. When she left her Brooklyn apartment to stay with a friend in Manhattan, she grabbed her dog but left the cat behind. "They pretty much take care of themselves," she said.
Dresser also wasn't worried about her pet. The pair was out and about Sunday afternoon, enjoying the fresh air. Though Mr. Michael had been a tad anxious during the worst of the storm, like any city dweller, he was taking things in stride.
"He's a New Yorker," she said, laughing. "He's going out to brunch."