Hurricane Irma: How Safe Animal Shelter is Rebuilding After the Storm

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When Sherry Mansfeld, Director of Safe Animal Shelter in Middleburg, Florida got an early morning emergency call that Hurricane Irma had flooded the shelter, she had no idea that soon after, her own home would be destroyed by the Category 5 megastorm.

“At the last minute, [Hurricane Irma] went up the east side of the state and we really didn’t think it was going to be as bad,” said Mansfield. “But, what happened was just a day before, New Hampshire had sent us a Nor’easter, so we were already soaked here.”  The combined exit of the Nor’easter and the arrival of Hurricane Irma hit this Jacksonville suburb like a freight train. “We had a week’s worth of planning [before the storm], so we started fostering out animals as quickly as we could.” With dilegent planning and social media efforts, all but 10 dogs were able to be placed in foster homes.

“We did our sandbagging and we prepared,” Mansfield continued. “But, [the shelter] is already in a low area, so we knew we would get hit. We had all the animals at the highest point of the shelter and we figured it wasn’t going to be that bad.” Mansfield said everything changed early Saturday morning when she got an emergency call that the area was under flood warnings. “{Our} staff went down as quickly as we could and [the shelter was] under about three-and-a-half feet of water.”

Woof New England and Project Pawsitive Helps Safe Animal Shelter Rebuild
Woof New England and Project Pawsitive Donate $1000 to help rebuild Safe Animal Shelter’s Medical Room!!!

The staff at Safe Animal Shelter was able to get all the dogs out. “Everyone was fine. Wet, but fine.”  The facility was not as fortunate. “We were all just devastated,” she said. “It wasn’t just the shelter, my home was completely destroyed. So, I just kept thinking, ‘what in the world are we doing to do?”

After four days of flooding, it started to recede and the full damage of the storm was seen. Mansfied recalls the stench, sludge and mold. “It was disgusting,” she said. After a week, when it was safe to re-enter the building, close to 70 volunteers came in to help the clean up efforts. “We had to throw pretty much everything away.”

The shelter lost everything from their computers and phones to medicines and food. “Our air conditioners and refrigerators were floating,” she said. “Everything was lost.”

Their medical room that serves as a front line of protecting against disease outbreaks and other illnesses was one of the biggest losses. “[This room allows us to] assess the animals, test for diseases they may have, give vaccinations, and we can take out stitches.” Mansfield said she didn’t understand the force of water until the devastation this storm brought to the shelter. “When you see a refrigerator floating, you think, ‘how did this happen?;”

One month later, the shelter is slowly rebuilding. With the generosity of donors, their storage units are full of food and supplies. They are also putting up new drywall and painting has begun. “It’s amazing what fresh paint can do.”

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Safe Animal Shelter is still in great need of donations to help continue to rebuild its shelter. If you are able to donate, please visit their website at www.safeanimalshelter.com to view their Amazon Wish List or donate online.

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