‘We could not protect them:’ 220 dogs, 50 cats drowned at Bahamas humane society during Dorian

FREEPORT, Bahamas — More than 200 dogs and 50 cats at an animal shelter in Freeport, Bahamas were lost in floodwaters brought by Hurricane Dorian.

Elizabeth Burrows, the executive director for the Humane Society of Grand Bahama said her heart was broken for the animals lost, and for those who trusted the shelter.

Dorian also destroyed the shelter’s medical equipment, food, and vehicles. Despite their near-death experience, the workers said they did not regret risking their lives for the animals.

More than 300 animals were at the shelter when Dorian hit. Felicia Telfort, the shelter supervisor, along with five colleagues, tried to keep safe the 300 dogs and 100 cats — most waiting to be adopted. Some had families that were forced to evacuate, and the government-run evacuation shelters did not allow pets.

“Since we didn’t flood in the other storms, we really felt like, we felt we might get some water, but we had no idea we would get the flood that we did,” said Burrows.

Storm surge unexpectedly threatened the lives of the animals at the shelter, and in spite of the danger, Telfort and her co-workers desperately tried to save the dogs by keeping the crates above the rising water.

“The water was about this high when we was doing this,” said Telfort.

With the water chest high and the building flooding, they sought shelter.

“Making sure that everything would be safe — to try and put it up high,” said Telfort. “We ran up in a manhole because the water started to come up so high.”

That manhole serves as the access to the attic, which had no stairs, so they had to pull each other up.

“As the kennel dogs were still howling and crying,” said Telfort. “We experienced all of that until they were not even crying anymore.”

The silence represented the death of more than 220 dogs and 50 cats.

“I felt devastated,” said Burrows. “I, um, we couldn’t have predicted this, but I still feel responsible. My heart is broken for the shelter animals that we lost, and I feel so bad for the people who try, and trusted their animals to us, and ultimately, we could not protect them.”

Dorian also destroyed their medical equipment, food, medicine, and vehicles.

In spite of their near-death experience, Telfort said she doesn’t regret risking her life.

“It wasn’t about us being heroes,” said Telfort. “It was about caring about the death of (the animals) as much as we cared about ourselves,” said Telfort.

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