Moore Oklahoma tornado: care shifts from dog and cat reunions to wildlife rehabilitation

IFAW responder Denise Bash reuniting Beck, an adult black lab with his family. A family friend had posted a lost dog online ad that Denise saw and resulted in a happy reunion.As the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Disaster Response team started to demobilize from Oklahoma last week, there were many hugs and tears shared among the responders who came to support the emergency care of more than 500 companion animals.

As dozens of families answered the calls of responders like Jennifer; people and their pets were reunited and true healing and rebuilding could begin.

One IFAW responder, Denise Bash remained in the field Friday as we transitioned our response efforts from companion animal support to that of supporting wildlife impacted by the devastating tornado.

Denise was excited to begin helping WildCare whose rehabilitation facility is located a mere 18 miles south of Moore, OK. Hundreds of wild animals were injured and/or lost their home due to the tornado on May 20 and WildCare was there to provide lifesaving rescue and rehabilitation.

On May 31 as Denise was working at WildCare in anticipation of our next team coming in the following day, the unthinkable happened… the winds picked up …and then the sirens blasted their eerie warning that tornadoes were quickly approaching AGAIN.

Denise recounts her experience in the letter below:

…I have seen the desperation, exhaustion, and an incredible drive to move forward past the damage. It has been an honor to serve these people. After last night, I truly believe that the people at WildCare might be the kindest people I have ever met. They kept me safe in their basement during the scariest storm I have ever experienced. My rental car was totaled by hail; my spirit was aching to be home after weeks of deployment. Even when things were at the worst with the weather, we hunkered safely together. They let me sleep in their home and made me dinner over a propane stove in the dark. This morning I awoke to a smile and another meal. Volunteers already were feeding countless orphaned and injured wildlife. They walked past the broken windows, the torn enclosures, the damaged pens, and it was not until we collected the unmoving bodies of the birds they had rehabbed back to health that I ever saw a tear fall. I am humbled by the dedication of this organization and the steadfast desire to assist the animals. I will come back and help repair the damage with my hands, skills and tools, but I could never repay the debt. I was alone, and they saved me when I was supposed to save them.

Thank you WildCare for not letting Denise drive back to Oklahoma City amidst the bad weather and for taking care of her as you do so many other little ones that need your help.

IFAW wildlife rehabilitation experts Diane Treadwell and Kelly Donithan arrived the next day to pick up the heavy weight on everyone’s shoulders from the unrelenting storms.

Enclosures need repair and rebuilding, abandoned babies need feeding, and injured animals need rehabilitation so they can all return to the wild where they belong.

IFAW is committed to working hard to support WildCare and yes, the search continues each day for those who are still out there in need of emergency care.

Stay tuned for pictures and video from Diane and Kelly in Oklahoma as our mission to serve animals in crisis continues...


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy