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Ike's other victims: Homeless animals

Jose Nieto with Simon the cat in the cat colony at the Animal Humane Society in Woodbury. Staff photo by Louise Ernewein

When Hurricane Ike blew in three weeks ago, it wasn't just people who were made homeless.

Dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits and a whole host of domesticated pets also lost their homes in the hurricane.

And the wildlife population suffered just as much. Pelicans, owls, hawks and 1,000 baby squirrels were just some of the victims of Hurricane Ike as it swept through Texas.

This week, Jose Nieto -- an animal technician lead from the Woodbury branch of the Animal Humane Society -- was back at work in Woodbury after spending five days in Houston, Texas, helping the four-legged and feathered victims rescued in the aftermath.

After a first day of helping with the domestic animals at the Houston SPCA shelter, Nieto and his four colleagues from the Minnesota AHS special case response team were turned loose on the wildlife affected by the hurricane.

"We were there for the next four days helping feeding the squirrels, and we had a couple of pelicans, screech owls and hawks and other birds," said Nieto, explaining many birds were injured when Ike blew away their nests.

"Some of them were really stressed out, so we fed them and cleaned their carriers and took care of their injuries."

Nieto was struck by the number of baby squirrels brought into the shelter by residents.

"The squirrel parents left them, so when people who had trees in their house found them, they grabbed them and brought them to the wildlife shelter," he added. "Pretty much every day a few hundred squirrels came in from people, bringing in five or 10 at a time."

It's not the first time that Nieto has been called into action on the AHS special case response team.

He responded just a few months ago to the floods in Iowa, working in Cedar Rapids for five days in July with rescued cats and dogs.

And three years ago, Nieto and his colleagues were in Texas for the first time, caring for 150-200 animals a day in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

"When they chose me to go this third time, I was excited to go again," said Nieto.

"A few people asked me why I wanted to go down there, but I like to help animals, especially those that have had that experience like a hurricane or tornado or a flood.

"For me, it's really nice because after you have rescued them and helped them, they find new homes and it's really rewarding."

And last Wednesday, Oct. 1, the first 59 canine Hurricane Ike victims of a total119 dogs arrived at the AHS Golden Valley location.

After recuperating, the dogs will be distributed among the five locations of the AHS for adoption.

For more information, visit www.animalhumanesociety.org.