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Area shelter: Pets also affected by June tornadoes

Area shelter: Pets also affected by June tornadoes tjo-tornado-dog.jpg
This small dog, named "Nina" is a stray that was found in the tornado-affected area of Springfield on June 6. Anyone who thinks this may be their dog is encouraged to contact Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center at 781-1484.

Reminder Publications photo by Mike Briotta

By Mike Briotta, PRIME Editor When tornadoes struck greater Springfield last month, workers at the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center (TJO) knew they would soon be inundated with rescued dogs, cats and other pets affected by the natural disaster. What they could not have predicted is the extent of continuing generosity shown by New Englanders in the wake of this tragedy. A visiting animal rescue group called Granite State Dog Recovery, headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, dropped off two large truckloads of pet food at TJO in June. The 4,000 pounds of food came exactly two weeks after the tornadoes devastated a swath of the shelter's service area in Springfield. The shelter also serves Chicopee and Holyoke. The recent donations of food, which are intended for any area pet owners who need help feeding their animals following the tornadoes, were dropped off near a banner at TJO that read, "Tornadoes are tough. Together we are tougher!" Organizers of the donation drive said their hearts went out to pet owners in this area. Members of the donating group pointed out that the search for tornado-affected animals is far from over. "The homes are destroyed, so the dogs don't know where to go," said Holly Mokrzecki, an organizer with the New Hampshire group. She is originally from Chicopee, and came back to this area to personally rescue dogs in Springfield in the days after the tornadoes. She continued, "A lot of dogs and cats, I guarantee will show up 6 to 8 weeks later. They tend to travel in a circular area after this type of disaster, and will come out more at night." TJO staffers said their focus continues to be finding homes for dozens of dogs currently in the shelter — many of them pit bulls. "People have been calling about tornado pets," said Jessecah Gower, volunteer coordinator at TJO. "We're putting animals into foster home situations. Luckily, we have a nice foster network of folks to step in and help individuals." She added that finding temporary homes for pit bulls is one of the challenges for TJO. "Almost every family wants to foster small, cute dogs," Gower said. "If you look at our adoption floor, it's full of pit bulls." Some 26 pit bulls were in the building, although many remained on the customary 10-day hold prior to being adopted out. "We have transferred out over 70 animals to rescue groups since the tornadoes," said Gower. TJO wanted to put out the word that their staff and animals were unharmed in the tornadoes — the shelter was not directly impacted by the storm. However, the powerful winds devastated portions of Western Massachusetts served by the shelter, most notably Springfield. The shelter takes in lost, homeless or "presumed homeless" animals. Animals considered "surrenders" by their owners, by contrast, should be taken to Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society in Springfield. Some of the more unusual animals rescued by animal control officers through TJO were a swan found on Plumtree Road in Springfield, exotic birds, a gecko lizard and even a boa constrictor. That snake was described as "not friendly" by TJO staff, and was later relocated to Rainforest Reptiles animal sanctuary in the Boston area. Lori Charette, an animal control officer, found the swan wandering around Springfield. "He was just covered in debris," Charette said. "He was walking around the street, very dirty and hungry." The swan, dubbed "Trumpet" by TJO staff, was treated at a veterinary hospital in North Grafton. "There's been so much going on," Gower said. "About 10 tornado animals have been reunited with their owners." She also advocated that animal owners get their pets implanted with micro-chips to make identification easier in case of any future incident. Gower concluded: "Report an animal if it's missing. If you find an animal, don't assume it's a stray — bring it here. If you want to adopt that animal, you can still put your name on the list and at the end of 10 days it may be available for adoption if not claimed." She estimated that about 4,000 animals come through the doors at TJO each year. TJO is currently seeking transport help and foster homes for pit bulls and other large breeds that have lost their homes. If you are able to foster for pit bulls please email your completed application to The shelter is also accepting a wide variety of pet-related dontations. Please bring all donated pet items to TJO at 627 Cottage Street in Springfield. Bookmark and Share