PAWS rescue dogs from Okla. shelters, available for adoption - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

PHOTOS: PAWS rescue dogs from Okla. shelters, available for adoption

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PAWS Chicago's medical and intake team arrived in Oklahoma City Thursday evening and have already saved dozens of animals. (Photo from Caitlin Lisa) PAWS Chicago's medical and intake team arrived in Oklahoma City Thursday evening and have already saved dozens of animals. (Photo from Caitlin Lisa)
The line of people waiting to adopt homeless Oklahoma City dogs at PAWS Chicago on Monday, who were rescued from shelters as tornado victims' pets flooded the limited space. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria) The line of people waiting to adopt homeless Oklahoma City dogs at PAWS Chicago on Monday, who were rescued from shelters as tornado victims' pets flooded the limited space. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria)
Meet Ruby! She was available for adoption at PAWS Chicago on Memorial Day. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria) Meet Ruby! She was available for adoption at PAWS Chicago on Memorial Day. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria)
Meet Ruby and Chrissy! They were available for adoption at PAWS Chicago on Memorial Day. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria) Meet Ruby and Chrissy! They were available for adoption at PAWS Chicago on Memorial Day. (Photo courtesy of FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria)
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The tornado that struck Oklahoma last Monday took a devastating toll in the number of lives lost and property destroyed. But amidst the anguish and destruction there is another "heart-wrenching" tragedy - displaced pets.

About 75 dogs from Oklahoma City went up for adoption on Monday, at PAWS Chicago. The homeless dogs were rescued from shelters this weekend, as tornado victims' pets flooded the limited space.

"We saw her online and we saw her get out of the van this morning, and I thought, 'Oh, I wonder if she's the one,'" said Lori Gentile, who adopted a dog, Lettie, on Monday. "She's perfect."

PAWS medical and intake teams left for Oklahoma City on Thursday afternoon, while volunteers in several vans left Friday afternoon. The vans returned late Saturday night to the Rescue & Recovery Center at 3516 W. 26th St. in Lawndale with the homeless dogs.

The dogs were bathed and fed, then get vaccinations, microchips and spay/neuter surgeries on Sunday. Sick or injured animals received medical treatment and will be placed in foster homes until they recover.

The healthiest of the pets were put up for placement at PAWS' Adoption Center at 1997 N. Clybourn in Lincoln Park on Memorial Day.

Oklahoma City Animal Care & Control took in 150 displaced pets right after the storm and will hold those animals for at least 30 days, to give owners time to find them.

"These are dogs that we know have an owner, but we can't find them right away," PAWS Chicago Executive Director Rochelle Michalek said. "In sheltering there is not infinite space, so that means other dogs must be euthanized to make room for the disaster dogs."

Michalek said that is not a pleasant thought, but the tornado dogs come first.

"We were all touched in some way by what happened down there. Imagine leaving for work in the morning and coming home at night to find your life destroyed," she said. "Pets are a big part of our lives, and to lose your pet along with everything else is just heart-wrenching.

"But it's also sad that the influx of displaced dogs will mean others lose their lives," Michalek said. "So that is why we are going."

"We don't want them to have to euthanize to make room for the storm dogs," PAWS spokeswoman Sarah Ahlberg said. "The goal is to free space in Oklahoma shelters, enabling them to assist animals displaced by the tornado."

PAWS, as it has in other disasters, made an emergency response mission to Oklahoma, sending medical teams and volunteers to bring pets back to Chicago.

"We brought back about 240 Katrina dogs," Michalek said, "as well as dogs from the Iowa floods. During the flooding in Marseilles, we set up an emergency food bank for families with pets and little else."

About 75 dogs, some in need of medical care, were brought back from Oklahoma and placed into PAWS' adoption program.

The mission required a mammoth volunteer effort. Michalek said the community response has been "wonderful" so far, with more than 225 volunteers already scheduled and more welcome.

Due to the size and short timeframe, PAWS accepted untrained volunteers to do some of the work that does not involve handling animals.

"We will do some quicky training sessions for people as needed, and the people who have not been trained can do other things such as cleaning and preparing shelter space, and feeding."

Michalek said this is just the first trip to Oklahoma.

In about 30 days, when families have had time to find lost pets, "we will go back down to get more," she said -- this time, storm orphans who were not reunited with families.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can email volunteerrsvp@pawschicago.org. To provide a foster home, email foster@pawschicago.org or call (773) 475-9464. Or to donate to the effort, visit the PAWS website or visit its Facebook page.

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