South Dakota animal shelters help rehome pets displaced by Hurricane Ida
3 mins read

South Dakota animal shelters help rehome pets displaced by Hurricane Ida

In the wake of Hurricane Ida sweeping the Gulf Coast, hundreds of shelter animals were left with nowhere to go. Operation Sunflower, a project run by Greater Good Charities, transported at-risk shelter pets in advance of and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida to animal shelters across the country.

One such animal shelter was the Heartland Humane Society in Yankton, which took in a total of seven animals—five cats and two dogs. The shelter was one of 10 participating shelters in the state. In total, shelters across South Dakota took in 92 animals.

Kerry Feilmeier, the executive director of Heartland Humane Society, said they were able to place all seven animals in foster care. The animals were all around five months old.

“(They’re) super playful, kind of just super sweet,” Feilmeier said. “They’re all going to be very adoptable. The process was really smooth, we would totally do it again.”

Denise St. Jean, the vice president of communications at Greater Good, said the project helps not only to insure animals are adopted, but also to clear space in shelters in affected areas for an influx of newly displaced animals.

The pets airlifted out in advance of Hurricane Ida had to undergo health checks to make sure they were healthy, non-contagious and able to fly safely. Feilmeier said the challenges of the program came in how fast the process moved.

“We were asked to commit last Monday (Sept. 1). And so Monday was commitment, Tuesday was paperwork, Wednesday was kind of a wild day where everyone’s like, ‘what’s going on?’” Feilmeier said. “No one knew, we weren’t told until Thursday night what animals we were getting.”

St. Jean said the challenges of the program were made greater by how many shelters nationally are experiencing overcrowding.

“We are so grateful to the shelters in South Dakota who stepped up to accept these Hurricane Ida pets,” St. Jean said. “It’s that type of willingness to help that allows Greater Good Charities to respond to disasters and help shelters in need like our partners in Louisiana.

Feilmeier said Heartland Humane Society is grateful to be a part of the response and to do its part to help these animals.

“Heartland is such a small entity in the world of animal welfare to be able to just be a small piece of that puzzle is really fun, and we only do that by the support of volunteers,” Feilmeier said. “So the more foster homes we have, the more shelter volunteers we have, the more animals we can help. It’s really our community and those who support us really make things like this happen.”

To donate and support the Good Flights disaster relief efforts, visit