With the help of the Kansas Animal Health Department, the rescue teams set up a temporary staging area at the Dodge City Fairgrounds
to administer treatment and house the animals not yet claimed. The plan is to photograph all unidentified animals and post
the pictures on the department's Web site, allowing owners to search for any missing pets, explains Debra Duncan of the department's
Typically not involved in disaster efforts, Duncan says it is rare for the department to be involved in this type of animal
care and rescue. "It is simply that the devastation is so huge, and we have the ability to help," she says.
A second staging area, where all unclaimed animals eventually will be housed, was erected in Greensburg at the transportation
department building once residents were allowed back.
President Bush visited the city and declared a federal disaster area.
Despite collaborative and effective efforts to assist animals, the magnitude of the storm's impact remains unknown, Dorman
says. "At this point, we don't know how many animals were lost and actually died. The whole city is just rubble."
Helping hands: Volunteer Willow Wright (left), with Kathy Wingert, wife of a local DVM, said years of living through Texas
and Oklahoma tornados did not prepare her for the wreckage in Greensburg. "There could be nothing worse but a war zone," says
Wright, owner of All Critters Rescue.
But animal injuries remain fairly mild, Skaer says. "There was some dehydration in cats and some injuries, but mostly they're
just scared to death. They just need supporting care and TLC, really," she says.
Once the city starts to get pieced back together, Skaer says she plans to try to improve rescue resources for residents with
animals in times of disaster. Working with Red Cross and other shelter facilities to try and incorporate options for animals
is a primary focus.
"I think as a country, we need to concentrate on housing and evacuation procedures that involve animals. We need to consider
animals when initiating emergency management efforts," Skaer says.
Homeward bound: Chelsea, a Schnauzer-pug mix, was found sitting among the ruined remains of the child's bedroom where she
slept at night in her home. Pratt County Humane Society Executive Director Lance Noakes cared for the dog until her family
Identifying animals is the biggest challenge when leading rescue efforts following disaster, Dorman says. She encourages veterinarians
to remind their clients about the importance of tags, collars and microchipping so pets can be identified and reunited with
"Always have extra food and water for pets," she further cautions. "And when a tornado warning is out, heed them. Take them
seriously. If you prepare and take cover and nothing happens, you are out nothing."