December 11, 2023

‘Pets were getting left behind’: Many animals still waiting to be reunited with owners after Cyclone Gabrielle

Watch: Aaron Hamilton and Carolyn McKenzie speak to AM.

A temporary animal shelter has been set up in Hastings following Cyclone Gabrielle’s destructive damage.

The Hastings Racecourse is home to all sorts of pets and animals rescued from the floods, waiting to be reunited with their owners.

Hawke’s Bay Racing CEO Aaron Hamilton opened up the racecourse to provide help.

He told AM he made an early call to abandon a planned race day and focus on helping those affected by the flooding.

“It’s certainly different to what we usually have here on Race Day,” he told AM on Monday morning.

The rescue shelter has also been a place filled with emotion.

“We’re getting a lot of reuniting happening which is emotional, I mean that’s when the tears come out,” said Carolyn McKenzie, CEO of Huha (Helping You Help Animals New Zealand).

McKenzie said although rescue teams are enjoying the special happy moments, it has been devastating seeing the animals come in traumatised.

“Families were getting helicopters and their pets were getting left behind,” she said.

She said they’re seeing people who have lost everything and when they find their pets it’s huge.

“It’s emotional and it’s like nothing else mattered because they have got their pets back,” she said.

McKenzie said some animals are contaminated and injured, however, she said she’s grateful for the facility. 

“We’re so lucky to have such an amazing facility,” McKenzie told AM.

She said with the help of others, pets were able to be rescued and taken to shelter.

“The Massey University Veterinary Rescue team were coming in, and plucking dogs off the roofs of houses that were flooded right up,” she said.

McKenzie said the animals are turning up shocked and covered in silt, so decontamination washes have been underway.

“We’ve got vets here who are checking them, they’re coming in with bumps and bruises, and eye issues,” she said.

The veterinary response team from Massey rescued six goldfish from a flood water drain.

One small kitten was also found underneath a house affected by the floods and is thought to be a stray, so could be needing a home in the near future.

McKenzie urges families who own the animals to collect them before they get adopted.

“They may have a family out there, so if you’re watching, come and get them otherwise they’ll be looking for a new home,” she told AM this morning.

She said making sure all the animals are microchipped is key at the moment, to ensure animals can be reunited if something happens again.

Check out the animals in the shelter on Huha’s Facebook page.

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