Beaufort News

Bluffton woman on a mission to rescue dogs in wake of deadly tornadoes

Bluffton resident Tallulah Trice took off in an empty cargo van Tuesday, using a list of animal shelters along the path of last week's deadly tornadoes as her map.

When she returns today from stops in Georgia and Tennessee, the van will be full of rescued dogs in need of homes.

For Trice, who lived in Lookout Mountain, Ga., before moving to Bluffton, it's not much different than a regular day at work.

Trice is a board member with the HAND Foundation, a Lowcountry nonprofit group that relocates animals from overcrowded local shelters to areas that have adoption waiting lists. The group transports up to 60 pets a week, and most of them are adopted within seven days of arriving at shelters in other states with high demand for pets.

Feeling "spoiled" because she had electricity, while family and friends have gone without power since the storms, Trice said she decided to help free up space at animal shelters near her former home in northwest Georgia.

Her first stop Tuesday was the Catoosa County Animal Shelter in hard-hit Ringgold, Ga. Eight people died in that county last week in storms. Trice said Tuesday she drove past downed power lines, felled trees and twisted scraps of metal.

Residents have been caring for dogs found running loose while they rebuild their homes, shelter director Darla Proctor said, but the shelter is expecting more by the weekend.

One of the biggest challenges so far has been matching owners with their lost dogs, Proctor said. Trice said that is also the problem at shelters she visited in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn.

Trice plans to return with as many as 30 dogs today to Bluffton, where HAND will pay for medical treatment and heartworm tests.

Then, along with local dogs scheduled for one of her weekly trips, she'll drive a crowded van of furry passengers to Albany, N.Y.

She'll go back to Georgia and Tennessee in two weeks for more homeless pets, after shelter employees there have exhausted efforts to find their owners.

"I'll be taking every one that I can take," Trice said.