News Item | PAWS Chicago

PAWS Chicago’s Emergency Response to Oklahoma City

by Sara McGaughy | Nov 01, 2013

“As an employee at the Oklahoma City Shelter that these pets were taken from, THANK YOU, PAWS CHICAGO!!!! You gave these wonderful pets a great chance at new and loving homes. We were over capacity with dogs and PAWS made such a difference in the lives of many! Thank you!!!” - Jennie Leeper, Oklahoma city shelter

“It was truly humbling to receive such support. We appreciate this more than you could know. PAWS Chicago, saying thanks just isn’t enough!! You saved the lives of so many by helping our Oklahoma City shelter.” - Shana Gammill, Oklahoma City Shelter

A class E5 tornado and several smaller tornadoes ripped through Moore, Okla. on May 20. The devastation proved fatal; 23 people were killed and 377 others were injured. Property damages were estimated at $2 billion. Along with the human and financial toll, several hundred animals were also affected. In the 48 hours after the storms touched down, 150 displaced pets had come into Oklahoma City’s Animal Care and Control (ACC). 

PAWS Chicago responded to the crisis by organizing a group of 16 volunteers who drove eight vans to Oklahoma City on the Friday following the disaster. The volunteers were accompanied by members of PAWS Chicago’s medical and intake team. Emergency medical assistance was provided to pets in need and the group transported 76 cats and dogs from Oklahoma City’s ACC to PAWS Chicago’s Rescue & Recovery Center. 

Oklahoma City’s ACC facility, which is equipped to care for 400 pets, held nearly 900 animals in the weeks that followed the storms. The 76 pets who were rescued by PAWS Chicago alleviated some of overcrowding. The pets who were relocated to Chicago were a combination of existing shelter residents and animals who had recently been surrendered by their owners. Moore residents who lost their pets during the storms were given 30 days to claim them, so there was no risk of taking wanted pets out of Oklahoma.

The rescued cats and dogs arrived in Chicago just five days after their world was turned upside down. And most were ready for adoption. Those who were not spent time recuperating in the care of volunteer foster homes. By the end of the first adoption day, 29 dogs had been adopted by new families. But more help was needed. Oklahoma City still had more dogs and cats than they could handle. So PAWS Chicago volunteers made a second trip, and this time transported 79 homeless pets not yet claimed by owners. There was an increased need for resources following the two volunteer rescue trips to Oklahoma City. Supporters of PAWS Chicago stepped up by donating money and supplies, opening their homes to foster pets, and volunteering at PAWS Chicago’s Lincoln Park Adoption Center. Throughout these difficult circumstances, PAWS Chicago remained committed to Chicago’s Animal Care and Control (ACC). In other words, PAWS Chicago did not take in fewer numbers of cats and dogs from Chicago’s ACC while it took in animals from Oklahoma City. PAWS Chicago was proud to be part of the life-saving efforts in Oklahoma City. As a result, dogs like Lettie, the first dog rescued from Oklahoma to be adopted, Bethany and Karen found loving, permanent homes in Chicago. Lettie is just three of the 155 pets rescued from Oklahoma City who have been given the gift of life, thanks to the dedicated volunteers and supporters who enabled PAWS Chicago to do something positive for a community that had been so devastated.