Disaster Grant Helps Pets and People in Four Tornado-Impacted Communities, including Muhlenberg County
In the early hours of December 11, 2021, tornadoes left a 200-mile path of destruction in Western Kentucky. In total, 76 Kentuckians lost their lives and over 1,000 properties were destroyed.
In Muhlenberg County, the small town of Bremen was hit especially hard: 11 of the town’s 187 residents died – the oldest victim in their 70s and the youngest just five months old. Almost all of the town’s buildings were destroyed, and close to 100 pets were lost.
Five months later, the town and its residents and pets are still suffering. “In the area that was hit the worst, it will take years to recover. There is not a tree left. Everything is gone,” said Joe Roney, volunteer Board President of the Muhlenberg County Humane Society (MCHS).
A disaster relief grant from the PEDIGREE Foundation has helped to ease the suffering for Muhlenberg County’s animals as residents continue to rebuild their community. The PEDIGREE Foundation awarded a $20,000 disaster relief grant to the Kentucky Humane Society to support Western Kentucky animal shelters in the tornado region. KHS distributed $5,000 each to four animals shelters in need: MCHS, Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter, Hopkins County Humane Society and Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society.
At MCHS, Roney and the shelter’s six employees immediately stepped up after the tornadoes to help needy animals and their families. Roney logged over 5,000 miles on his truck in the first six weeks after the storms, visiting tornado-impacted areas as often as four to five times a day, looking for lost animals and setting humane traps to capture pets too traumatized by the storms to approach people.
“I have never experienced animals who have lived through tornadoes. It will mess with their minds. Many won’t come near you – it’s almost as if they think humans had something to do with it,” he said.
It took six weeks for Roney to capture two especially traumatized dogs, Jake and Bullet. He visited the heeler mixes almost daily to deliver food and water before finally gaining their trust. When their owner decided not to reclaim them, Jake and Bullet were transported to a rescue organization for adoption
MCHS took in over 100 lost dogs and cats from tornado areas in the weeks following the storm. The shelter was able to find almost all of the original owners. Most families reclaimed their pets, but a few surrendered their animals for adoption. The shelter also offered free pet boarding for pets whose families’ homes had been damaged or destroyed. Seven dogs were boarded for free until their families got back on their feet.
“To help the animal, you need to help the people too,” said Roney.
Since the storms, Roney and the shelter staff have delivered hundreds of bags of free pet food, 20 truckloads of animal bedding, and numerous outdoor doghouses to families in need, and they continue to be there for owners.
In one case, MCHS helped a pet owner whose home was destroyed by the tornadoes. Her pregnant dog was taking shelter in a doghouse when the doghouse roof collapsed. The mother dog gave birth to four puppies in the damaged doghouse. MCHS found homes for the puppies and helped the owner keep her adult dog by providing pet food and supplies.
Months after tornadoes tore the fabric of this close-knit community, MHCS continues to feel the impact – that’s why a $5,000 disaster relief grant from the PEDIGREE Foundation is so appreciated.
“Our biggest expenses besides staffing are veterinary bills and transportation costs,” said Roney.
The shelter’s veterinary costs alone average $2,800-$4,000 a month, and rising fuel prices are taking a big chunk of out of their rescue budget. Most months the shelter transports 80-100 animals to other rescues so they can be adopted.
Three-year-old Chance is just one of the dogs saved thanks to the PEDIGREE Foundation. He was abandoned in a remote area of the county called Dead Man’s Curve. Chance was frightened and threatened to bite anyone who came near him, and he became even more upset after a passerby pepper-sprayed him. Roney and a shelter employee were able to capture Chance and bring him to the shelter, but Chance was too scared to let anyone touch him. For weeks, the shelter staff tossed him treats, talked to him, and gradually gained the scared dog’s trust. Today, Chance is a different dog. He greets everyone with happy smiles and loves going for walks and getting belly rubs. His tail goes a mile a minute whenever he sees Roney.
“He sensed that we were trying to help him. He has become my best friend, and I love getting to see him daily,” said Roney, a Vietnam Veteran and retired operations manager at a power plant in Muhlenberg County.
Chance tested positive for heartworms, a deadly parasite that is expensive to treat. But thanks to PEDIGREE Foundation, his heartworm treatment was paid for. When Chance was finally declared free from heartworms, Roney says he “cried happy tears” with the good news.
“A dog is a special animal. They can bring every emotion out of us. They have the biggest, most forgiving hearts. I think that’s one of the reasons they always give us humans one more chance. Thank you, Kentucky Humane Society and PEDIGREE Foundation,” Roney wrote in an email to Kat Rooks, KHS Kentucky Initiatives Director, who distributed PEDIGREE Foundation funds to the shelter.
“It was inspiring to see how Muhlenberg County Humane Society jumped in to assist hurting pets and people in their county,” said Rooks. “We are so thankful that PEDIGREE Foundation provided a disaster relief grant and gave the Kentucky Humane Society the opportunity to provide direct financial assistance to needy shelters struggling in the aftermath of the tornadoes.”