Dozens of animals rescued from rising floodwaters in Bootheel

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ The Mississippi River crept up the floodwall Monday at the Broadway floodgate. The river crested at 41.04 feet, below the predicted 41.5 feet, Monday in Cape Girardeau.

The Humane Society of Missouri plans to double the size of its rescue team of 10 stationed in Caruthersville to help save animals threatened by the rising Mississippi River. The organization removed 37 dogs and 11 cats from the humane society shelter in Caruthersville on Sunday night. The animals had been displaced by the flood or impending flooding.

"We went down to bring animals up so there would be room for additional animals to be brought in the next few days," said Tim Rickey, head of rescues and investigations for the Humane Society of Missouri.

The organization seized eight horses and 23 dogs Friday in Pemiscot County. Three of the horses were found dead of malnutrition and illness. Authorities said they were living on muddy water and wood.

They also seized 23 dogs from a Caruthersville home.

Rickey said the shelter in Caruthersville already had taken in 25 more animals by 2 p.m. Monday.

Pemiscot County Emergency Management director Danny Dodson thinks the Mississippi River levees will hold against the approaching crest, but Rickey is taking no chances. "It's a great concern right now," he said. "There's a lot of agricultural property and homes in the flood area. If the levee does not hold, there's going to be a lot of problems there."

He said the humane society wants to be ready in case that happens. "We want to be there if we need to mobilize people. People can house their animals temporarily until the danger's over and they can get back and get them," Rickey said.

Dodson said the river is just up to the bottom of the levees and is not putting pressure on them. "We've still got 25 feet to go," he said."Their integrity shouldn't be a question."

He said most of the animals rescued so far have been from an area of old house trailers called Cottonwood Point. It lies on the river side of the levee. The humane society collected animals there in case the residents have to evacuate, Dodson said.

Search continues

Pemiscot County's emergency response team has been searching for a suspected drowning victim since Saturday. The man went missing Friday night or early Saturday at White's Hole, a backwater out of the Mississippi River channel near Steele. The unidentified man went to help someone sandbag a house and his jeep became stuck as he attempt to leave. Only a foot of the jeep is now visible, Dodson said.

The Mississippi River crested at 41.04 feet at Cape Girardeau at 1 a.m. Monday and is expected to drop to 36.7 feet by Thursday, even anticipating some rainfall. Flood stage at Cape Girardeau is 32 feet.

The forecast for the area is for a 30 percent chance of showers tonight, with the chance of showers increasing to 60 percent Wednesday. The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., is calling for a 40 percent chance of showers Thursday and a slight chance Friday.

Rickey said another humane society team based in Jackson rescued dogs, cats, goats and birds in the Allenville area Thursday and Friday and then returned most to their owners. Two birds, a cat and six dogs were taken to the Deer Ridge Animal Hospital in Jackson temporarily but all had been returned to their owners by Monday.

Another team in Butler County rescued three horses and 11 dogs from floodwaters.

Rickey said rescues in St. Louis County have slacked off since the humane society rescued 13 head of cattle Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

335-6611, extension 137

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