Superstorm Sandy's destructive path took lives, forced people from their homes and shut down cities. Its powerful winds and rains also spooked and swept hundreds of pets away from their homes. As people struggle to rebuild their lives in Sandy's wake, many have been left searching for beloved family members--dogs, cats, birds and other pets.While some people look for pets, other people are looking for the owners of stray animals who have wandered into their neighborhoods.
Both groups have taken to social media to try to reunite pets with owners. A Facebook page called "Hurricane Sandy Lost and Found Pets" has over 7,000 supporters, a number that is growing by the hour. The page has dozens of photos of pets that have been lost and found. Others are using Craigslist and the hashtag #SandyPets on Twitter.
"People are being very proactive and number one is being aware that after a storm of this magnitude there's going to be a lot of misplaced people and animals," Pennye Jones-Napier told ABCNews.com. "The animals can be very scared and have just gotten away through fences or losing their collars because they got frightened."
Jones-Napier is a Red Rover responder for disasters in Hyattsville, Md. Red Rover is a national team of volunteers that helps with the sheltering component of disaster relief. She has already gotten several calls from people this week who have found lost animals after the storm and one even turned up at the shop where she works, The Big Bad Woof pet store. "He showed up on Tuesday afternoon around 4 p.m. and it was still raining here," Jones-Napier told ABCNews.com. "He was scared to come in at first, but we got him in with some treats."The people who brought him told the store that they had found the dog outside of a Chipotle and had taken him to a veterinarian's office to see if he had a microchip implanted, but he did not. The people who found him said they'd be back in an hour-and-a-half for the dog, but they never came back. An employee of the store is sheltering the dog. "We're calling him Taz because we don't know what else to call him," Jones-Napier said. "He's adorable. He's such a nice dog. Everyone here is in love with him." She said that Taz greets everyone and is especially intrigued by children. "I have a feeling he was with a family or someone who has kids around," Jones-Napier said. His body mass index was good and he was not injured. His photo is on Facebook and the store is trying to find his family.
Jones-Napier said that there are some basic steps people can take if they come across a lost dog. "If they don't have a collar, take them to a local vet or shelter to see if they have a chip," she said. The microchip implanted in many dogs now can be a quick way to identify them and reunite them with their families. Second, Jones-Napier suggested sheltering the animal yourself if possible, as shelters are currently overwhelmed. Otherwise, they can be taken to area shelters. She also noted that if the animals have rabies collars, that can be a way to track down their owners through veterinary clinics.
In New Haven, Conn., another family is desperately searching for their beloved dog Sophie, a 7-pound terrier. Mallory Diedrich and her family -- including a 2-year-old, two other dogs and two cats -- survived the worst of Sandy relatively unscathed. They lost power at their home and are surrounded by debris from trees and fences. The morning after the storm, they were in their backyard cleaning up some tree limbs and pieces of fences. They decided to go for a walk, but discovered something was wrong shortly after they returned -- Sophie was gone. Diedrich believes the "nervous" dog may have slipped out of the yard through a broken portion of the fence and tearfully described how the indoor dog does not even have a collar. "We've barely noticed the fact that we don't have power because we've spent since Tuesday looking for her," Diedrich said. "I can't do anything else but look for her."
For some, using social media to search for lost pets is already working. Two basset hounds, Mango and Finn, escaped from their Ridgewood, N.J., backyard after owner Jeanne Johnson had let them out for a little bit when the worst of the storm was over. In the dark, Johnson had not realized that the storm had wiped out the yard's fence. "I panicked because the wind had picked up," she said. "I went out in my bare feet and was screaming at the top of my lungs...My kids were hysterical and I was trying to keep it together. I could hear them barking," Johnson recalled emotionally. "I could hear my dogs, but I couldn't get across the street. There were downed power lines and I was scared."
Her home lost power but at a friend's recommendation, she was able to use her phone send her story to a local news blog with a photo of her dogs. Soon after, she realized her phone battery was faltering, but wanted to make sure she kept the phone alive in case anyone called with news of the dogs. Johnson was in her car, which was swaying from the forceful winds, charging her phone when she saw a small light in the dark. "Some random man that I've never met in my life was standing there soaking wet with shorts on yelling, 'I'm not going to leave until I find [the dogs],'" Johnson recalled, still in disbelief. The dogs were eventually found, amidst tears and hugs. The good samaritan, named Dave, had heard the sound of dogs wailing from his house. He thought it was coyotes, but shortly after got on Facebook and saw the post about the dogs. He jumped out of bed and went to search. "What do you do to repay a man like that?" Johnson said. "Half of me was thinking he was crazy, the other half was thinking, what a hero. What a brave man."