Preventing cruelty to animals through education, advocacy, spay/neutering, and adoption

Gainesville's Own Pet Superwoman

Gainesville has its own super hero for the animals! Meredith Shields, Adoption Coordinator of the Alachua County Humane Society, is a volunteer for American Humane Association National Responder Team. The AHA Team focuses on saving animals in disaster situations such as the tornados that swept through the Midwest last month.

Meredith’s journey began on Wednesday, May 14th when she hopped aboard a plane heading straight into the eye of the storm in Franklin, Kansas. On May 11 an F4 tornado had affected approximately 50 homes, many of which were destroyed. Though the Franklin residents’ homes could not be saved, many of the families hoped only that something much more important be saved - the life of their family pet. The same hopes were harbored by the residents of Moore, Oklahoma where a tornado struck Thursday evening. After spending a night in her hotel with only a mattress and 4 walls as protection from the invading tornado, Meredith and her fellow rescuers drove to Oklahoma to rescue any pets that had made it through the storm and give the distraught families some ray of hope.

Despite the devastation felt by the town’s residents, all worries seemed insignificant to certain families when they were reunited with their beloved pets whom they had believed to be destroyed with the rest of their belongings. Residents’ tears of despair turned into tears of joy, such as those of the 8 year old boy who hadn’t slept since 2 days prior when his cat, KC, disappeared after the storm. The sight of the mother’s face when Meredith handed her KC and she knew her son’s prayers had been answered makes any danger associated with Meredith’s work seem insignificant to her.

Though the residents of Kansas and Oklahoma have had much of their lives ripped away from them, there are still some stories with happy endings such as that of Einstein the Basset Hound. Einstein was spotted by Meredith and her fellow rescue workers on Thursday, May 14 approximately 4 days after the storm. His family didn't have much hope that he had survived since they hadn't seen him since the storm hit. After an hour of coaxing the scared, growling dog, with the help of some doggy cookies and canned food, Meredith brought Einstein to the Southeast Kansas Humane Society shelter where he was greeted by his teenage mom and his grandmother who swooped him off the ground and into her arms as if he were a 5 lb Chihuahua! When asked how she felt leaving the site, Meredith replied, “An experience like this makes you realize what the important things in life are as opposed to the material things that are replaceable.”

We are glad to have Meredith back in Gainesville being a hero to Alachua County pets such as the two cats she has spent the last week trying to rescue since their owner was put in a nursing home. She has crawled under trailers, crept through the remaining wreckage of destroyed homes, and most importantly she is a friend to all of the animals that she works with daily at the Alachua County Humane Society.

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