Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle, just 70 miles east of Alaqua, on October 10, 2018, leaving a trail of utter devastation. It was the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle and the third most devastating storm in modern U.S. history.
With so many of our neighbors suffering, we knew we had to think and act differently. On top of our usual Refuge operations, we shifted our focus to help the hundreds of animals and their owners affected by the storm. For many, Alaqua was their only hope.
The consequences of the hurricane continue to be formidable and unexpected. There is no end in sight to the animal rescue situations brought to our attention every day, and we continue to lead the way in providing solutions and a safe haven.
Below: Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood with Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line. Brian and his wife Brittney with Tribe Kelley/Tribe Kelley Surf Post greatly assisted our rescue efforts, as well as helped us partner with the Nashville Humane Society to get animals transported and adopted.
Below is a synopsis of our efforts thus far:
Alaqua continually leads the organization and coordination of animal relief efforts in the Panhandle. We are grateful to our partners for their assistance, including Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and his wife, Brittney, of Tribe Kelley/Tribe Kelley Surf Post, GreaterGood.org, Wings of Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, RedRover, the Florida State Animal Rescue Coalition, and multiple humane societies from all over the country. These efforts have literally saved thousands of animals.
Alaqua began rescue operations two days after the storm with permission from state officials to enter the most devastated communities to retrieve animals from inoperable adoption centers. We also offered shelter for abused animals discovered by officials while making safety checks in affected neighborhoods.
More than 600 animals have come through the Refuge since the storm. Many were transported to other states for adoption to make space for the hundreds more seeking refuge with us.
Shelter and More
Our doors opened to heartbroken owners surrendering their animals to us because their homes were destroyed. Lost and abandoned animals found wandering after the storm have also been sheltered for 30 days while efforts were made to locate owners. Happily, reunions have occurred!
Every hurricane-displaced animal was examined, vaccinated, micro chipped, and given medical aid as needed, from treating broken bones and performing cesarean sections to treating injuries and wounds.
In an unprecedented move for shelters, Alaqua offered free boarding of pets for families who wanted to keep their pets but whose homes sustained such catastrophic damage that they were forced to find housing. To our knowledge this program was a first.
Alaqua provided help for over 200 horses and other livestock by repairing fences on local farms, supplying food, and moving displaced ones to safety. We also rescued a herd of 176 goats and since their arrival more than 35 kids have been born at Alaqua.
Alaqua served as the largest distribution center for animal related food and supplies in the Panhandle. We accepted truckloads of food and necessities donated by major pet food manufacturers, businesses, and individuals. Each donation was then sorted according to animal type. Alaqua coordinated daily transportation of those items into areas that needed it most. More than 40,000 pounds of pet food have been distributed to-date.
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