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Ferret Community Reaches Out To Aid Ferrets And Owners Affected By Recent Disasters

Members of the ferret community band together to help fellow ferret owners who are victims of the recent floods and tornadoes.

By Marylou Zarbock
Posted: May 25, 2011, 12:10 a.m. EDT

Ferret Bailey/© Courtesy Becky Y.
This ferret is safe at home playing, but the lives of ferrets and their owners in the disaster areas have been turned upside down.

The record-breaking floods and tornadoes in recent weeks across the U.S. Midwest and Southeast have taken lives, destroyed property and robbed survivors of any sense of normalcy. The human tragedy is horrific. Also among the casualties and survivors are many pets. One Associated Press photo shows Ashley Stephens in Joplin, Missouri, cuddling a ferret she rescued from the debris of the home of a woman who was still missing as of Monday, May 23, after a devastating tornado struck the area the day before.

“Aiding ferrets in times of major disaster” is the motto of the Ferret Emergency Response, Rescue and Evacuation Team (F.E.R.R.E.T.). Its board of directors has five members, including Renee Downs, a longtime ferret owner and advocate who is a coordinator of F.E.R.R.E.T. and a member of the International Ferret Congress.

“Last month we sent some food to a shelter that had damaged food due to flooding,” Downs said. “Maren at Raisins in Mississippi has taken in several ferrets, and I have been in contact with her. She said she doesn't need anything right now. We will continue to follow that. Those are the only [ferret shelters] I heard about even though we put out the word.”

But that was before the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, on May 22.

Lisa Oestereich, a longtime ferret owner, board member of F.E.R.R.E.T. and co-founder of Friends of Ferret Shelters, wrote in a press release that F.E.R.R.E.T. is in contact with a local ferret shelter in Joplin, Missouri, and working to get supplies to it. “Stacey Lamb from the Kansas City Ferret Hotline is going to drive to Joplin, Missouri, tomorrow morning,” Oestereich said. “Stacey has spoken to the shelter owner, who told her that the area has been sealed off. Her house is not damaged, but they have no utilities and no water. Stacey is bringing food, water and supplies with her. When the authorities seal off an area after a disaster, the only people allowed in are emergency personnel and charity/rescue organizations with the proper disaster certifications from FEMA.”

Oestereich hopes that a place near Joplin can be found to drop off supplies for the ferret shelter if Lamb isn’t allowed access into Joplin. Other F.E.R.R.E.T. volunteers who have disaster certifications are being contacted to see if they are available to help. F.E.R.R.E.T. is also in contact with national animal rescue groups like Noah’s Wish.

“Basically, we’re in a holding pattern right now trying to get more information,” Oestereich said. “There is a lot of misinformation starting to be passed around, so please --- sit tight and wait to hear from us. If we all work together, our efforts and donations will go a lot farther than if we run around, bumping into each other, repeating the same tasks over and over again.”

The F.E.R.R.E.T. Facebook page will give updates as soon as available.

What else does F.E.R.R.E.T. do to help after disasters? “F.E.R.R.E.T. can assist both shelters and individual owners by providing food, bedding, supplies for the ferrets,” Downs said. “We have also provided cages in the past. If ferrets require ADV testing, vaccines or other specific vet care in order to be boarded or sheltered, we can help with that on an individual basis. The Ferret Council has also been alerted to have the individual organizations in the group to prepare assistance within the roles previously decided.” The Ferret Council is a multi-organizational group that assists with large-scale ferret rescues.

Downs added that ongoing needs after such disasters are often the worst drain on resources of affected ferret shelters and ferret owners.

F.E.R.R.E.T. is working to get a donation button on its website. Meanwhile, Oestereich is accepting checks made out to F.E.R.R.E.T. to help with assisting victims of the disasters: Lisa Oestereich, 10010 Markham St., Silver Spring, MD 20901-2310.

Both Downs and Oestereich mentioned that the upcoming International Ferret Congress symposium in Phoenix on June 2 to 5, 2011, will feature a disaster preparedness workshop on Friday evening, June 3.

Other members of the ferret community are also working to help. Some post supportive comments and send prayers on Facebook when someone alerts that a tornado is headed their way or near another ferret friend or ferret shelter’s home. Members of the Ferret Mailing List also offer words of support and offer to help.

And a fundraiser for black-footed ferrets has morphed into a multi-fundraising effort. The black-footed ferret fundraiser began when the pet ferret Isabella Gucci Jones posted on her Facebook page that she wanted a sister, and her father agreed to adopt a sister ferret for her if she could raise $1,000 for Prairie Wildlife Research, a nonprofit organization that works to save endangered prairie species like the black-footed ferret. Gucci Jones’ dad happens to be Travis Livieri, executive director of Prairie Wildlife Research.

How are funds being raised? By offering people a chance to name a wild black-footed ferret. Anyone who goes to the Prairie Wildlife Research website and donates at least $10 can send in one name for every dollar donated, according to Gucci Jones. Donate $10, enter 10 names. Donate $25, enter 25 names. You can enter the same name or all different names. It’s your choice. In her post, Gucci Jones encouraged people to honor a pet by having a black-footed ferret named after it.

The three new names will be picked on June 27. Those who donate via the website must use the special instructions box to list the names. Donations by postal mail are being accepted at Prairie Wildlife Research, P O Box 308, Wellington, CO 80549.

This fundraiser switched gears a bit on May 23 when Renee Downs posted a matching donation plan on Gucci Jones’ page. “For the first $500, we will match everyone's donation to the [PWR] fund and, to help out the ferrets in places like Joplin, Missouri, and Mississippi and North Carolina, we will also make a matching donation to F.E.R.R.E.T. So, if you give $10 to Issy, we will match your $10 and also donate $10 to F.E.R.R.E.T. So your $10 makes $20 and becomes $30. If you donate $10 to Miss Issy and $10 to F.E.R.R.E.T., we will donate $10 to Miss Issy and $20 to F.E.R.R.E.T. , and your $20 makes $30 and becomes $50. How cool is that? Let's get Issy a [sister], help out the BFFs and help those ferrets whose homes are lost, too.”

Do you know of anyone else helping out ferret owners or ferrets, or do you know of any ferret owners or ferrets in need of help in the disaster areas? Please post a comment below.

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