Joplin, MO — The Joplin tornado left nearly one third of people living in the city homeless. Federal and state funds have helped families rebuild, but there is a silent victim of the storm.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, nearly 1300 animals needed shelter.
"We're able to reunite almost 500 pets with their families, but unfortunately we've had a lot of animals that were not able to be reunited," said Tim Rickey with the ASPCA.
The organization made a promise to the Joplin community, no animal rescued will be euthanized. Teamed with the Joplin Humane Society and PetsMart Charities, the ASPCA put on an Adopt-A-Thon Saturday at the Emergency Animal Shelter.
Thousands stood in line for hours, waiting to pick up the perfect addition to their family. People of all ages and from around the country came to rescue the animals.
"The response has just been incredible," said Rickey, who used to live in Joplin."For me to be able to come back and help the community that I called home for so many years in their time of need has been quite a honor."
Holly Bruner drove her kids from Oklahoma just to pick out the perfect puppy.
"We're trying to help out a little bit, maybe we can do them some good," explained Bruner.
Vincent Alejandro lives in Joplin and brought his 2 kids to the event.
"These animals need a place, it's good that they are doing this," he said.
Members with the ASPCA secured 3 warehouses, all to shelter and feed the animals. A distribution center was also set up to provide families with pet supplies and food.
"We just want to make the transition easier," said Jeremy Griffitt, lead dog trainer at the Joplin PetsMart. "The charities gave everything from pounds of food, to chew toys, to crates."
PetsMart Charities gave over $180,000 worth of "consumables" to the Joplin relief effort, said C.J. Barwick, store manager of PetsMart. The local store also provided coupons to all new pet owners.
For the Brower family, searching for a puppy was the perfect Saturday activity. The three kids ranging from 12 to 4 never had a dog and were excited to look around.
"Look at this one!" exclaimed 4-year-old Emma.
As soon as they laid their eyes and paws on a little terrier, a bond was formed.
"Give me paw!" said 8-year-old Bailey, after the family named the dog Oreo.
"It's my cute little buddy," smiled 12-year-old Daniel.
With a ring of the bell and a cheer, formerly homeless pets found their forever home.
"I really feel like all these animals are going to have a chance," said Rickey. "To be at home, sitting on somebody's lap on somebody's couch, that's really why we do this work."
The Adopt-A-Thon continues at 10 Sunday Morning at the Joplin Emergency Animal Shelter.