SEBRING — After Hurricane Harvey struck Houston leaving many displaced dogs and cats, Humane Society of Highlands County President Judy Spiegel was determined to help.
With little hesitation, Spiegel committed to accepting 20 dogs and 20 cats from shelters in Houston. That would create room for the displaced animals that would eventually be reunited with their owners.
Spiegel organized an army of volunteers to clean and repair the Humane Society’s old kennels. That was accomplished with hours of hard, sweaty work.
But as Hurricane Irma approached Florida, Spiegel made the difficult decision to at the very least delay receiving the Houston animals. And it’s a decision, she doesn’t regret.
“Those animals would have died,” she said, if they had received them before Irma.
Not only was there considerable flooding in the area, but trees fell on multiple kennels, causing extensive damage. Surprisingly, though, the set of original kennels built at the Humane Society were not damaged.
However, all of the dogs and cats in the new buildings remained safe. Spiegel stayed at the Humane Society shelter during the storm.
Besides the damage to the old kennels and some fencing, one of the major problems following the storm is that the pump to the shelter’s well was damaged, Spiegel said. The Humane Society uses some water from the city, but that’s more costly, she said.
They have to use a lot of water just to clean out the kennels.
One problem that may have longer lasting effects is the flooding behind the shelter where the Humane Society holds its largest fundraise of the year, Terror Trail.
“The money we raise from that is what gets us through the summer,” she said.
She said she’s tried to go back to the area where the fundraiser is held. “The water is up over my boots,” she said.
Spiegel said holding the event each weekend in October looks problematic.
“I don’t see how we can do it,” she said.
Diane Daniels, a long-time volunteer and employee of the Humane Society, said she began working at the shelter when they used the old kennels.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see this all destroyed,” she said.