Wagging Hearts' Stancato leads help for animals displaced in Louisiana floods
Round Lake resident Linda Stancato, director of Wagging Hearts, a foster-based animal rescue and adoption organization in Hainesville, saw the devastation of the flooding in Louisiana through news reports in mid-August.
Torrential rain flooded Baton Rouge and elsewhere in Louisiana, leading to 13 deaths and damage of 55,000 homes and 6,000 businesses for a loss totaling more than $9 billion, according to published reports.
But that wasn't all. Farm animals and family pets also were displaced during the flooding, many left without regular food and good care. Stancato wanted to do something about it and help animal shelters and families in the affected areas.
Stancato and other volunteers collected animal feed, pet supplies and pet accessories and drove down to Louisiana a couple of times to help. Then four other times, she sent truckloads down on their own to help.
"People there didn't have any way to even get to the animal shelters because their cars or trucks were damaged, so we had to get the supplies to them," said Stancato, 49.
Stancato's Wagging Hearts, which is registered with the state and has applied for a not-for-profit status, started collecting donated items from suburban animal lovers and packed them in four semitrucks, four regular trucks and two buses. While they have stopped collecting for the Louisiana flood victims, the group is seeking donations to replace one of their trucks for future efforts.
Stancato brought back some pets that have been in some Louisiana shelters awaiting adoption before the floods hit. Those Louisiana shelters needed more room for the newly displaced animals still trying to connect with their families, she said.
"When we first went down there, I slept in the truck until the shelters opened," Stancato said. "We brought about 130 bails of hay, 2,400 pounds of feed for livestock, dog and cat supplies and more."
As they continued to make trips down to Louisiana, Stancato said they saw the devastation of the floods on the families. They saw piles of soaked furniture, household items and vehicles piled up along roadways. There were countless puddles and lakes that didn't exist before that remained stagnant and mud covered just about everything. Devastated families still tried to sort through the remnants of their homes.
"We went block by block, handing out supplies, bleach, bottled water until we had nothing left," she said.
Many families continued to search for their pets long after the flood and some cried when they were reunited, she said.
"It was a very emotional time," said Stancato.
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