Heavy rains force evacuation at Lakewood Ranch animal shelter. Fosters come to the rescue

Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue sent a plea for help as rainwater filled its shelters on Thursday morning.

The shelter posted on Facebook just before 11 a.m., asking for immediate adoptions or foster families — a request that was shared more than 1,400 times on social media. Dozens of people soon answered the call.

Rain filled Nate’s office and its shelters with about 3 inches of water, forcing animals onto their raised beds, said Dari Oglesby, the executive director.

She fielded questions, paperwork and phone calls while her staff pumped water from the surrounding pools of rain.

“Our lights were flickering, and when you lose the electricity the pumps stop,” she said.

The shelter sent approximately 100 animals — 60 dogs and 40 cats — to drier homes by 2 p.m., while a mix of 15 dogs and cats still remained.

“Those are the ones that aren’t good with other animals,” Oglesby said. “High energy, you know, the ones that most people don’t want to take home.”

Another 30 dogs, which were facing euthanasia in North Florida and South Georgia, were slated to arrive by Thursday evening. Nate’s planned to quarantine the dogs in dry trailers.

Flooding affects the shelter twice a year, said Oglesby, who started working for Nate’s about nine years ago.

“Today was the worst ever,” she said. “It was worse than any other hurricane or anything.”

Nate’s is raising $8 million to renovate its shelters and construct new facilities. The shelter is $2.3 million from its goal, and a drainage system is first on the to-do list.

Phase I is scheduled for January, when Nate’s will construct a large pond and raise its property 2 feet, Oglesby said.

“That is one of the main reasons we’re doing the expansion, because we can’t live like this,” she said.

The flooding left a slew of grass and mud in all of Nate’s buildings, and Oglesby said the shelter desperately needs bleach, laundry detergent and towels to clean the mess.

Rilyn Ferber, 12, started volunteering at Nate’s with her family about one year ago. They’ve since adopted two dogs, Blue and Lulu — a duo that became a trio on Thursday afternoon.

Answering the call for help, Ferber and her family chose to foster Dingo, a retriever mix.

“I’ve seen him before and he’s just the cutest,” Ferber said. “He’s just so loving.”