(CHICAGO) — After seeing the staggering devastation in Oklahoma City area from a mile-wide tornado, one Chicago animal shelter decided to try and help the region by helping out the smallest and furriest residents.
More than 300 volunteers from the PAWS Chicago Animal Shelter brought 75 dogs and cats that were at risk to be euthanized at the crowded Oklahoma City Animal Care and Control Center to a no-kill shelter in Chicago.
The Oklahoma City Animal Care and Control Center had been overwhelmed when more than 150 lost and displaced pets were brought in following the storm. By taking the dogs and cats already at the shelter, the PAWS volunteers were able to create more room at the center and hopefully allow owners to be reunited with their pets who were lost during the storm.
“One of the most emotional moments was the fact that the shelter director [said] ‘You’re giving us hope and giving my team hope,” Rochelle Michalek, executive director for PAWS Chicago, told ABCNews.com. “It’s brought a smile to everyone’s face.”
Michalek said hundreds of volunteers assisted first by driving down 850 miles on Friday to Oklahoma City. Volunteers then packed up the animals for transport in just a few hours before making the return trip. After arriving back in Chicago around 2 a.m. on Saturday, the animals started receiving medical treatment a few hours later.
“It’s been such an emotional few days,” said Michalek. “Just seeing the devastation that this area has witnessed [and] loading [the animals] in the vans and receiving them at 2 a.m. [in Chicago.]”
The animals brought to the shelter include beagles, tabby cats and Labradors among others and all that don’t need additional medical attention are available to adopt.
While most of the animals were already in the shelter before the storm hit, Michalek said one woman had to give up her six dogs because she was not able to take care of them in the storm’s aftermath. A few of the dogs needed medical treatment after being injured in the tornado.
“Just imagine in the morning you were getting ready for work, and getting your kids to school [but] by the evening your life is destroyed and everything you know and love is gone,” said Michalek. “The emotional trauma is [overwhelming.]”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Claire Moran, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Marilia Brocchetto, Joshua Berlinger and Angela Dewan, CNN