Flooded or Not Quite, Iowa Pet Businesses Feel the Impact
By Eve Adamson
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|Lucky Pawz Dog Daycare & Boarding transported 20 dogs in three hours as water from the floods flowed into the building. (Courtesy of Jim Kelly)
As water levels rose in rivers and reservoirs throughout Iowa, spilling over riverbanks and reservoirs to flood streets, homes and businesses, the state’s pet industry suffered major losses.
Some businesses, like Lucky Pawz Dog Daycare & Boarding
in Iowa City, have the Iowa River running through them.
“On Thursday [June 12], we were told we had to evacuate in one hour,” said co-owner and manager Jim Kelly. “I said, ‘It will take a couple of hours to move all the dogs,’ and they said, ‘You don’t have a couple of hours.’”
The boarding facility transported 20 dogs to Gentle Heart Veterinary Clinic in three hours as the water flowed into the building. Now operating at a third of normal capacity from their remote location, Lucky Pawz is trying to provide hours for their employees and a place for besieged homeowners to keep their pets.
“We lose money every day we’re closed, and we know people who are working to clean up need somewhere for their pets to go, but we certainly aren’t operating under ideal conditions,” Kelly said.
In Cedar Rapids, Canine Corner
, a pet boarding and day care facility near the Cedar River, was inundated with water, said Lori Chada, a friend of Canine Corner owner Glenda Fillenworth and a fellow rescue worker.
“The water was 6 inches from the top of Canine Corner’s ceiling. We had to evacuate 30 dogs to my house in Shellsburg, and they are all in kennels in my garage,” Chada said.
Boarded dogs were all safely returned to their owners, but Chada still has a group of rescued Belgian tervurens. It will take a while for Fillenworth to get back to business, even though floodwaters have receded, Chada said.
“Glenda was able to get back in and she found everything covered with mud and filth,” Chada said. “The building, the dog yard, the dog toys all survived, but now it’s a matter of getting everything cleaned up and rebuilding what is damaged on the inside, like the drywall.”
“We’ve lost 75 percent of our traffic. If you don’t live nearby, you aren’t going to know how to get here because so many roads are cut off. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
~ Joyce Wild, owner, Classy Paws
Pet businesses that didn’t take on water have suffered, too, said Maureen Woods, owner of Emporium Pets, a 30-year-old, 1,200-square-foot pet retail store in Waterloo.
“The city was damaged heavily, and while we are on high ground, some of our employees have lost their homes,” she said. “The flood waters were enough to break foundations and topple structures, and not everyone has insurance.”
Still reeling from a deadly tornado in nearby Parkersburg on May 25, Waterloo residents and businesses could hardly believe their bad luck.
“Whether it’s a tornado or a flood, when people have to evacuate, the last thing they are thinking about is going shopping,” Woods said.
“Our business traffic is off 60 percent. Other than pet food, I know the things we sell are luxuries to people right now, and people just aren’t in a position to buy luxuries. You don’t come here at a time like this when you don’t need to come here.”
Costs are up, too, Woods said.
“Deliveries need to take a circuitous route to get here, so they put a lot more miles on their trucks,” she said. “Fuel surcharges are up, and now they are adding local delivery charges. Of course, that has to be passed along to the consumer, but the consumer is that poor devil whose house has just floated away.”
Classy Paws, a grooming shop and boutique store in Waterloo, just moved off a flood plain to a new location at a higher elevation on April 1.
“We escaped the flood thanks to the move, but we had a blizzard on our grand opening, and an ice storm and power outages the second time we tried to have a grand opening,” said owner Joyce Wild. “People are really hit by an economic slump already. Then we had the tornado in Parkersburg, and now this flood. It’s just been one thing after another for this area, and it’s not like you can tell Mother Nature to stop it.”
Wild says she doesn’t begrudge needier folks their aid, but businesses that weren’t flooded don’t have any relief for the economic impact they are experiencing now.
“There aren’t any funds from FEMA or insurance for those of us who are indirectly impacted by the flood,” Wild said. “We’ve lost 75 percent of our traffic. If you don’t live nearby, you aren’t going to know how to get here because so many roads are cut off. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.”
Besieged Businesses Help Others
Even as they suffer losses, local businesses have been working hard to help pet owners in need.
“A lot of people don’t have anywhere for their animals to go, so we’ve been taking in what animals we can,” Wood said. “We’re dry, so we’re trying to be a beacon in the night.
Emporium Pets has become temporary home to dogs, cats, birds and even fish from the flooded Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Black Hawk County.
“Their power went out, so we took their fish,” Woods said. “We just got in five cockatiels rescued from almost 6 feet of water. A woman sent her poor husband into the house, and the water was almost higher than he was. He dragged out the cockatiels, which were clinging to the top of the cage, but the hotel where they are staying wouldn’t let her keep them.”
Stores like Petland in Iowa City and Pet’s Playhouse in Cedar Rapids, not directly impacted by the flood, have been working to provide displaced pet owners with supplies and space to house the pets they often can’t take with them to shelters or hotels.
“Before the flood even occurred, when we knew it was coming, we contacted suppliers and manufacturers we work with, and it was amazing how supportive everyone was,” said Petland owner Ron Solsrud. “They understood there was an impending disaster, so they immediately started sending us pallets and boxes and all sorts of stuff to aid in the recovery, everything from food from Nutro and Eukanuba to a big care package form Coastal. We didn’t even think of calling them, and they just sent us an e-mail and said, ‘Supplies are on the way.’”
Solsrud is offering a 20 percent discount on any supplies people want to purchase as a donation for displaced animals at the temporary animal shelter at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
“We’re doing all the delivery because they are already inundated with traffic,” Solsrud said. “We’re also taking in small animals and reptiles from the shelter, so people can adopt them from here.”
Pet’s Playhouse has also been receiving donated supplies for displaced pets, according to co-owner Sheri Hunt.
“Companies like Natural Choice, Hagen and Marineland are sending pallets of supplies,” Hunt said.
Pet’s Playhouse is also housing five dogs, a rabbit, a bird, a tortoise and a cat.
“We have two people that just brought in fish, and more are coming in today—some large silver dollars, a jelly bean parrot fish, a big severum, a large angel fish and a plecostomus,” Hunt said. “We’re doing what we can to help.”
Larger corporations are gearing up to help displaced pets, too. Petsmart Charities has dispatched several truckloads of emergency pet supplies to Cedar Rapids and several other hard-hit communities. The American Kennel Club and its associated Companion Animal Recovery organization have also donated supplies to temporary shelters in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
As the flood waters recede, businesses will do what they can to regroup and recoup their losses. In the meantime, those that can help will do their best, in the true spirit of Iowa, Solsrud said.
“It’s really amazing to see the way people in Iowa reach out to help each other,” he said. “We’re letting people buy pet food under cost, posting signs telling people how they can help or where to get help and asking businesses and shelters and pet owners what they really need right now. It’s just what you do at a time like this, because you know it’s right.” <HOME>
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