SAFE Animal Shelter flooded

Kile Brewer
Posted 9/14/17

DOCTORS INLET – No amount of preparation could have prevented the flooding at the Safe Animal Shelter just west of Fleming Island.

About a week before Hurricane Irma moved through the Florida …

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SAFE Animal Shelter flooded


DOCTORS INLET – No amount of preparation could have prevented the flooding at the Safe Animal Shelter just west of Fleming Island.
About a week before Hurricane Irma moved through the Florida peninsula, the shelter’s director Sherry Mansfield and her team began hitting the phones to try and foster out their animals, about 35 dogs and 60 cats. Due to their quick thinking, every animal is safe.
“Some people wanted to foster, but as the storm got closer they decided to evacuate,” Mansfield said. “We pretty much got everybody out before the storm hit. Everybody is being fostered right now, and they’re all safe.”
Mansfield noted that one of the most generous foster parents was the vet tech employed at the shelter. Wendy Blackburn took in all the shelter’s kittens and some cats, about 30 felines in total. She said one foster family immediately fell in love with a puppy they had agreed to foster and has since decided to adopt the pup – something Mansfield hopes will continue to happen.
Once most of the animals were out, the reality of the situation set in. While retrieving the last group of dogs, the water – already waist deep – was still rising. The hallways where their kennels are kept became rivers. Computers and supplies floated by as volunteers and workers got the last few dogs loaded up. Their new air conditioning unit, new washer and dryer, and all their medical supplies can be seen sitting on top or underneath flood water in photos posted on the shelter’s Facebook page.
“Pretty much everything is wet or damaged,” Mansfield said. “We’re going to have to start over from the ground up.”
Mansfield, whose two-story Middleburg home is also flooded, has been staying with one of the shelter’s board members, Lee Oliver. The two expect to make a trip to the shelter Friday once the water has receded from the gravel road that winds around the retention pond and to the front of the building. Once they can get in, they will assess the damage, but for now, the two women can’t imagine being able to replace everything that was damaged with the shelter’s shoestring budget.
“We’re on our own with this, we have no funding except for what we get from fundraisers and donations,” Oliver said.
“We don’t receive government funding, so we rely on the community,” Mansfield said.
Once the damage has been assessed and recorded, they will immediately begin recovery efforts. Oliver and Mansfield expect to begin removing damaged property and cleaning out the kennels and cat rooms this weekend once they have completed their initial walkthrough.
Since the shelter updated its Facebook page with a photo of a dog being evacuated with the simple message “We Need Help,” they have received so many donated supplies that they are seeking dry storage to house things until the shelter reopens.
At this point, those interested in helping can do two things.
The biggest need for the shelter is funding. They have more supplies than they can store, but they will need to raise money to replace everything lost in the water. To donate directly to the shelter, prospective donors can go the main PayPal site and send funds to
Additionally, the shelter is hosting its annual auction fundraiser later this month. The event has been planned for months, but could not have been scheduled at a better time.
“The auction is always our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Mansfield said. “Right now we need it more than ever.”
The Pawsport to Purradise auction will be held on Sept. 23 from 5-9 p.m. at the Thrasher Horne Center. There will be catered food and live and silent auction items. Tickets can be purchased through the Safe Animal Shelter Facebook page, or on their website at

Beginning Saturday, tentatively, they will also need ongoing help from volunteers, specifically those with experience in building repairs, landscaping and flood recovery.
One of the more surprising and unfortunate things that has happened since the storm hit came Tuesday evening when someone drove to the flooded shelter, picked up a discarded dog carrier that sat near the entrance to the shelter’s driveway, and put about eight kittens inside and left them at the water’s edge, as close as they could to the front door. Luckily, an employee stopped by the shelter to check on things before going home for the night and found the kittens, soaking wet, and posted a photo to the shelter’s Facebook page. As of Wednesday morning, all the kittens had been placed in foster care. Though this sort of thing isn’t uncommon for shelters, now it hits especially hard.
“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Mansfield said while looking through photos of the flooded shelter on her phone. “But my staff has been amazing, they’ve gone above and beyond. We’re a small shelter, but we operate as a team and we’re all like family. Our No. 1 priority is taking care of the animals.”
Mansfield said the Safe Animal Shelter Facebook page is the best way to keep track of their situation. She and her employees will be posting regular updates and keeping the community informed when they have a specific need.


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