Safe Harbor rebuilding after Hurricane Sally

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 9/28/20

FOLEY - Everything was running according to schedule at Safe Harbor Animal Coalition. The nonprofit TNR organization that’s working to open a spay and neuter clinic to decrease the area’s feral …

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Safe Harbor rebuilding after Hurricane Sally

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FOLEY - Everything was running according to schedule at Safe Harbor Animal Coalition. The nonprofit TNR organization that’s working to open a spay and neuter clinic to decrease the area’s feral cat population was excited. The building was complete and already housing 200 cats. Thanks to donations from Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Baldwin County surgical equipment had been purchased and set up in the building. Auburn vet students were set to come and begin the surgeries in only a few weeks.

Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed when Hurricane Sally came on land in Gulf Shores. Suddenly, the Safe Harbor volunteers switched gears, from getting feral cats off the streets to evacuating them from a flooding building.

“In the darkness of night on Sept. 16, about two feet of water rushed into and through the building, taking the lives of five of our kittens, terrifying the other 198 cats and kittens we had in the building, and ruining or destroying most everything inside,” the organization posted on Facebook. “It was traumatic for those of us that had poured our hearts and souls into this project over the last eight months.”

Like many other buildings in the area, the organization was not in a flood zone, and thus didn’t have flood insurance. Even more, they now found nearly 200 cats, previously living on the street, once again without a home. That was when a light in the dark came through. Safe Harbor’s national partner Best Friends Animal Society and the Disaster Response Team from Atlanta Humane Society came as soon as they received the call. Between the teams, they transported the cats to the Atlanta Humane Society’s no-kill shelter.

Within a week of the storm, the Atlanta Humane Society was working to find the Baldwin kitties forever homes, while their own partner shelter in Ohio agreed to step in and help. A volunteer pilot flew 30 Baldwin cats to a no-kill shelter in Ohio, where, according to the Atlanta Humane Society, the cats will soon be adopted. The Atlanta Humane Society is continuing to care for nursing moms, sick cats and cats with ringworms, and will put them up for adoption in Atlanta when they are ready.

Best Friends Animal Society and Atlanta Humane Society weren’t the only organizations to help the Baldwin kitties. The Guardian Angel Foundation, RedRover, and Stray Love Foundation have all pitched in to help with the recovery efforts.

Safe Harbor isn’t giving up so easily, as the volunteers work to see their dream realized. As soon as they had seen the cats safely off to Atlanta, they got to work in the building and began on repairs and equipment checks. The volunteers are working to replace what they’ve lost and perform any construction needed after the flooding.

Safe Harbor is aiming to have the spay and neuter clinic reopened by mid-October, and will begin trapping feral and stray cats as soon as the building is repaired and the equipment has been replaced.

“We’re not going to let this slow us down,” said organization chairman Steve Solomon. “We have an amazing group of volunteers, and we should be up and running again soon to help the feral cat population of Baldwin County.”

To donate to Safe Harbor, volunteer with the group, become a foster, or for info about the group, check out safeharboranimalcoalition.org and follow the group on Facebook.