Local Rescuers Help Animals Impacted By Recent Flooding

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April 12th, 2019

A sign at Scatter Joy Acres in north-central Omaha. Scatter Joy helped rescue hundreds of animals from recent flooding. (Photo: Emily White)

OMAHA, Neb. — There’s always a menagerie at Scatter Joy Acres in north-central Omaha. But a recent rescue of a herd of rare goats stranded by the flooding significantly added to their flock—and grabbed national attention, as well.

It wasn’t just the goats, though. Joy Bartling, the farm’s founder, says they helped hundreds of animals over the past weeks: from guinea pigs to potbelly pigs; rabbits, ponies, dogs, and more.

“We helped walk animals through water, we drove through water, we air-boated animals out of locations to get them up and out of the water.”

“These people are losing their livelihood,” Bartling says. “Some of them are hobby farms, and some of them—it’s just how they live. The waters came in so fast that they did what they could. So we were blessed that we were able to help support them and get their animals to a secure location.”

Widespread flooding along several local rivers weeks ago displaced many people and damaged hundreds of properties, but animals, too, were impacted by the rising waters. Pets were trapped in homes, larger animals in barns. Newborn calves on cattle ranches weren’t strong enough to withstand the floods.

Bartling is just one of many locals, however, who have stepped in to help animals affected by these recent events.

In Elkhorn, trainer Sheri Muhlbauer added 22 extra horses displaced by flooding to her stable. They came from neighboring farms on lower ground, overcome by the Elkhorn River.

The river’s rapid rise damaged numerous roads and bridges, including one that collapsed shortly after she crossed it.

“I was over it with a horse on board as we rescued that one out before the rest of them got stranded,” she says. “He was the only one that we could get out because he swam out with someone on his back.”

Now some of those horses are finally able to return home after surviving things Muhlbauer says she’ll never be able to unsee.

And throughout the area, the Nebraska Humane Society has worked with Animal Control to rescue pets separated from their owners. Pam Wiese, vice president of marketing for the organization, says they’ve reunited animals with their humans in disaster relief shelters, and have also provided a home for more than a hundred animals still unable to be claimed.

“That’s something I think people learned in Hurricane Katrina, that you need to be able to evacuate the pets along with the people and have them with them,” says Wiese. “That creates a much better atmosphere for everybody, knowing that their pets are safe.”

The Humane Society also kicked off a supply drive and filled an entire semi, donated by Werner Trucking, of food, crates, and other assorted supplies, and will be working soon to distribute all of this to owners in need.

There is no doubt that natural disasters such as floods have physical and economic tolls, but the mental health of those affected is also a factor. After the rescue, the reunion of animals and their humans is crucial, Wiese says, to the healing process.

“I think that people really want to evacuate with their pets. I think that that’s really important to have them—they are family members—and being able to make sure that your pet is safe is that much more peace of mind. Not to say losing your home and losing your livelihood isn’t absolutely devastating, but to be able to have all family members safe, I think, is paramount on people’s minds.”

Bartling, whose Scatter Joy helps with groups such as veterans with PTSD and troubled youths, also understands the important role animals play in people’s lives.

“Animals have always been a love of mine, and I know what kind of therapy they were for me and what they do for other people.”

And as people begin to recover, rebuild and return to their homes, so, too, will these animals— thanks to the efforts of those who rescued them.

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