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Orphaned Pets Get T.L.C.

Weeks after Hurricane Floyd, about 200 orphaned pets remain at a veterinary field hospital here. The accommodations are first-rate, and complaints are rare.

"They love it. They've been waited on hand and foot for over a month," said Kelli Ferris, a veterinarian who is the hospital's director.

The refugee center's Web site reunited Tiny, a poodle-Pekingese, and his owners. A family friend saw his picture, and soon they were together again.

Yolanda Grant, a former Princeville resident, said her family left Tiny in the family home, thinking the water wouldn't rise that high. The Tar River flooded the entire community, but Tiny survived. The Grants now are in a new home in Rocky Mount.

"We had to be rescued ourselves," Grant said. "I can't tell you how much it meant to me to get him back."

Tiny now has a microchip -- implanted between his shoulder blades -- which can be scanned to show the Grants own him.

At one time, about 400 four-legged refugees were quartered in the warehouse near the North Carolina State University veterinary school and in Raleigh-area animal clinics. Most are dogs.

Many of the dogs and cats were rescued by volunteers in boats in the days after Floyd drenched eastern North Carolina. The flooding struck so quickly many people were forced to abandon their pets.

"Some were pulled directly from floodwaters and put in crates and brought here," said vet school spokeswoman Leigh Ann Wilder. "When they first came in they were very excited."

Veterinary students treated and vaccinated the animals and implanted ID chips in all of them. Some refugees wobbled in on sprained legs and shoulders. They suffered from stomach ailments from drinking contaminated water, heart worm, ringworm, mange and skin diseases.

Donated goods and services poured in for the animals' care -- 400,000 pounds of dog food, medicine, collars, leashes and cages.

"Their personalities really came out after they had something to eat and some sleep," Wilder said. "A lot of these were yard dogs and haven't walked on a leash, and some walk the volunteers."

Every day, the volunteers walk the dogs, help feed them and clean their cages. Volunteer veterinarians monitor their health.

On Monday, the unclaimed pets were put up for adoption for the first time. All the adopted pets will be spayed or neutered before being released to their new owners.

Pecos, a lab mix, walked out of the hospital Tuesday with new owner Amy Haarstad, a third-year veterinary student from Maple Grove, Minn.

"We wanted a friend for our other dog, and I just fell in love with him," said Haarstad.

The veterinarians and volunteers are told not to be judgmental about pet owners who abandoned their animals because "a lot of times animals couldn't be taken," Wilder said.

And Ferris said when the owners are found, they arent billed for their pets' care. Donations cover most of the cost anyway.

"We don't even ask them to," she said. "Most of these people have lost so much."

A hot line number for discussing adoption is 919-715-9679.

To view pets at the field hospital, go to their Web site:
click here