Shelter From The Storm

Doug Staller, an animal care associate with Yankton’s Heartland Humane Society (HHS), plays with Rufus, (left) and Hank, two 5-month-old puppies who arrived at HHS Friday after being displaced from a shelter in storm-ravaged Lafayette, Louisiana.

Yankton’s Heartland Humane Society (HHS) is among a number of animal shelters across the country lending a hand to Gulf Coast shelter animals who have been displaced by Hurricane Ida.

On Friday, HHS was one of the dozens of shelters accepting displaced shelter animals from Good Flights — a collaborative effort between Greater Good Charities and Hill’s Pet Nutrition to airlift sheltered cats and dogs that had been displaced by the hurricane to shelters around the country.

HHS Director Kerry Feilmeier told the Press & Dakotan that the South Dakota portion was known as Operation Sunflower.

“In Operation Sunflower, about 90 shelter dogs and cats came to South Dakota today with a dropoff in Sioux Falls and in Rapid City,” she said. “Ten local shelters — eight of them being in South Dakota, one in North Dakota and one in Sioux City — took those 90 shelter animals and Heartland was one of those recipients.”

She said about 10 shelters in Louisiana sent dogs and cats northward due to the aftermath of the hurricane which ravaged the region earlier this week.

“All of those animals came from animal shelters around New Orleans and Lafayette Parish area,” she said. “They are still in the dark out there with no electricity, so the ability to care for shelter pets is hard.”

The animals airlifted to South Dakota on Friday had already been up for adoption in Louisiana.

“Each shelter that took animals, it becomes their animal, so they get to keep them, care for them, love them and find them forever homes,” Feilmeier said.

She added that HHS had signed up to take as many as 12 animals but ended up only taking in seven — two puppies and five kittens.

Feilmeier said this wasn’t the first time HHS has taken in transfers, but nothing quite on the scale of Friday’s airlift.

“Heartland has done some regional transfers,” she said. “We have helped bigger shelters in Oklahoma and Texas before, but this was our first opportunity to really collaborate. This was a partnership with 20-some entities involved. … It sounds like, in the end, about 220 pets left Louisiana shelters and entered a shelter somewhere in the United States, so it’s really cool to be a small part of that big number.”

With this collaboration under their belts, Feilmeier said she could see HHS stepping up in the future when the need arises.

“Our team is thrilled with how (Friday) went — from our transport team who went out to the airport and picked up the animals to our medical team here,” she said. “This has been such a positive experience. The animals are coming in with great paper work and are going to be easy to care for and easy to adopt back out. It is definitely something we would continue to do.”

She said that it was important to step up this week at a time that, even without a major ongoing disaster, is traditionally strenuous on animal shelters.

“At a national level, every animal shelter this time of year is feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “There’s a lot of cats and kittens in the late summer and people returning to school and surrendering animals after summer vacations are over. August and September are always busy for every shelter, probably across the nation, so things like this only happen when everyone comes together. No one shelter could’ve saved 220 animals — and even in South Dakota, no one shelter could’ve consumed 90 animals coming into the state. But when we’re all able to take a little piece of the puzzle, it solves a big problem.”


For more information on Heartland Humane Society, visit

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(1) comment


Do they bark with a southern accent? :-)

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