Receding flood waters threaten hog rescue operation in Midwest

Friday, 27 June, 2008
Oakville, IA
Animal rescue groups are facing many obstacles today as they begin an operation to save 50-plus pigs stranded on the so called ‘Big Ditch’ levee in Oakville, Iowa. The flood waters have receded several feet in recent days and this will present significant challenges for getting the boats into the water and reaching the levee.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW –, American Humane Association (, Farm Sanctuary ( and Animal Rescue League of Boston ( landed in Illinois one week ago to assist with animal flood victims but were later called on by the State of Iowa to assist with the stranded hogs. A team of approximately 25 arrived in Oakville last night and a small core team remain in Illinois.

‘This mission that we have informally deemed the ‘Big Ditch Pig Rescue’ will be quite a feat’, says Dick Green, Disaster Relief Manager for IFAW and Head of Operations in Iowa. ‘Once we make it to the levee, we know the surviving hogs will be in rough shape, we will do our best to assess the conditions of the pigs, and do have a licensed Iowa State Veterinarian at our staging area available should any questions arise from response teams’.

As flood waters have receded several feet in the recent days, areas that were once underwater now contain large islands of mud. Four teams and four boats holding 3 to 4 responders each will be faced with carrying their boats, filled with pig feed, including apples, liquids, and supplies, weighing up to 600 pounds, through areas that are no longer deep enough for their boats. Once deeper waters are reached, they will board their boats and go as far as they can before reaching yet another island of mud and the cycle will start all over again.

Today is expected to be extremely labor-intensive with temperatures forecast in the upper 80’s and the chance for more storms.

These operations are likely to continue over the next several days. The goal is to eventually herd the pigs off the levee into a secure staging area. Once off the levee, the State has relinquished full custody of the animals to Farm Sanctuary, which ensures that they will live out their full lives in peace, cared for by staff and supporters of the sanctuary.

Amidst the challenges of such a mission, Debrah Schnackenberg, Director of Animal Emergency Services for American Humane Association has a positive outlook. ‘It’s exciting to see 4 different organizations with such extensive technical expertise come together so quickly to serve the common mission of saving animal’s lives.’ Since Hurricane Katrina, animal rescue organizations have learned that working together leads to more animals saved.

According to media sources, floodwaters in six states have inundated 14 main river systems and compromised more than 20 levees from Iowa to Missouri. Since the deluge, at least 35,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes.


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