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As storm clouds approached the St. Landry Parish Airport on Friday, animal rescue volunteers loaded hundreds of animals onto an aircraft ahead of Tropical Storm Barry.

The effort was a last-minute move to avoid potentially having to euthanize a large number of animals at the shelter.

The animals on the plane were heading to rescue shelters in northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, said animal shelter director Stacey Alleman McKnight.  

The shelter had posted on Facebook earlier in the week, asking for anybody who could take in a total of 100 animals. The post was shared more than 5,000 times

‘Running out of space’ and a dire situation

McKnight said overcrowding at the St. Landry facility had reached a crucial stage and the potential for severe weather made the situation increasingly dire.

Owners dropping their animals off at the shelter before the storm further compounded matters. McKnight said she received 20 additional dogs whose owners were concerned about caring for them during the storm.

She said some of the dogs probably would have been put down if not for volunteer assistance and funding from nationwide rescue organizations.

McKnight said the Facebook post that said the 100 dogs at the shelter were going to be put down later in the day on Friday wasn’t necessarily an over-exaggeration.

“We were just running out of space here and some of those you see here may have had to be put down,” McKnight explained. “What we’re seeing here right now is our whole shelter population is leaving. We couldn’t leave them here due to the weather conditions. They would have been left in kennels and outdoors. No way could we keep the water out.

“When we ask our volunteers to come help us, they respond,” she added. “What you see is nothing new. They’re amazing, our backbone and they have done this time after time.”

Rallying to get dogs on flights and flight-ready

Julie Breaux, state director for the Humane Society of the United States, helped volunteers move dogs into the kennels.

Acadiana Animal Aid also had a van full of dogs.

Breaux said the plane was financed by national rescue organizations. In addition to the cats from other shelters throughout Acadiana, there were about 15 dogs that were brought in from St. Martin Parish as part of the rescue.

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Due to the impending weather conditions, there wasn’t much time to complete the rescue, but Breaux said she was hopeful everything would end safely.

“It’s going to be close, a lot closer than you want to be when you have this many animals,” Breaux said.

When the animals arrive at their new destinations, McKnight said, they should immediately become adoptable.

“We had the veterinarian out here to give the vaccinations and the dogs are flight ready,” she said. “It’s going to be a feel good day today and the pets are going to win.”

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