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How Best Friends is helping animals in Oklahoma and Arkansas flooding

Record-setting catastrophic flooding, brought on by continuous heavy rain, has affected many communities in Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas over the last week and a half. Currently, all 77 counties in Oklahoma have declared a state of emergency. Although the storms have dissipated for now, more are expected during the next week and as river levels continue to rise. The state has been forced to open flood gates to relieve pressure on dams, flooding additional communities downstream and threatening even more people and animals. Many towns are underwater or cut off from resources, which means their animal shelters are underwater or cut off also. So, what happens?

How Best Friends helps in natural disasters

During natural disasters, Best Friends Animal Society works primarily through our 2,600-plus network partners to identify the needs of displaced and homeless companion animals in the affected areas. With network partners across the country, we get firsthand information about what is needed, and then we help connect organizations with aid. These relationships help us all capitalize on our strengths and do the most good.

Rescuing animals in the Oklahoma area

In northeast Oklahoma, Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter (PAAS) is doing both on-the-ground rescue work and sharing information about other organizations in need. Through a decade of working with local shelters to transport animals in need to Colorado, PAAS has become a regional transport hub, and they are now leveraging their expertise and relationships to get animals out of flooded shelters to safety. At the same time, they’re helping to move animals out of unaffected shelters to make room for animals displaced by the floods, until their families can return to find them. Keeping these animals closer to their communities is the best way to reunite families broken apart by the disaster. Best Friends has awarded PAAS a grant to support their work in transporting dogs and cats out of the disaster area.

Recovery process after the flooding emergency

The extent of the need in Oklahoma and Arkansas goes beyond the response to the immediate flooding emergency, though. Recovery for the affected areas will be a lengthy process. People in Oklahoma will have to assess the damage and figure out how to rebuild their homes, businesses and animal shelters. Rescue groups and neighboring shelters that have stepped up to take animals will have to find homes for the animals in their care and provide housing and care for pets waiting to be reunited with their families.

If you’re looking to help the two- or four-legged victims, here is the best flood resource we’ve found.

Photo by Molly Wald

Lee Ann Shenefiel with a dog Lee Ann Shenefiel
South Central regional director
Best Friends Animal Society