“His name is Zeke,” read the Facebook posting after the May tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. “He’s a male boxer, almost 6 months old. Wearing green collar. Last seen near NW 63rd and Portland. He is fawn, black mask with white marking on face, chest and paws. We miss him very much. Please return.”
There are a lot fewer missing or homeless “Zekes” today due to the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) and partners who are working to reunite lost pets with their heart-stricken owners.
The May 20 tornado that swept through Moore displaced many animals in the area. ODAFF worked with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) within an Incident Command structure to triage animals and place them in shelters so that they could be reunited with their owners. Home Depot allowed ODAFF to set up the triage facility at their location, and animals were then moved to several shelters in the area that were housing pets until they could be reunited with their owners.
Just days after the disaster, hundreds of dogs and cats have been reunited with their owners, state officials said.
As recovery efforts continue, ODAFF is working collaboratively with APHIS to provide support for pet and livestock owners. While much of the heavy lifting is being done by state and local staff and volunteers, APHIS’ primary focus has been on response coordination and planning, pet shelter assessment, and providing technical assistance for animal carcass removal.
For example, hours after the storm ODAFF established the Home Depot pet triage center, operated by ODAFF veterinarians and staff as well as volunteer veterinarians. APHIS assisted with scheduling volunteer veterinarians and veterinary technicians to staff these shelters, and to support record-keeping efforts where requested. APHIS also provided assistance in preparing a site physical safety analysis at the shelters and provided expertise and recommendations to address temperature and other animal welfare concerns.
“The cooperative efforts of USDA-APHIS in conjunction with ODAFF staff and area shelters has resulted in many reunifications of displaced pets with their owners,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, Jim Reese. “It has taken the hard work of federal and state staff as well as many volunteers to assist with our response. We will continue to work cooperatively with all those involved to reunite animals with their owners.”
In all, more than a dozen APHIS employees were deployed to the rescue/recovery/reunification effort as part of the agency’s emergency response mission.
Meanwhile, an ODAFF spokesman said efforts are ongoing to use social media and other avenues to reunite owners with pets, including Zeke.
To learn more about efforts to assist pets and their owners in Oklahoma click here.