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HomeWorld HeadlinesMakeshift shelter saves hundreds of dogs amid floods in southern Brazil

Makeshift shelter saves hundreds of dogs amid floods in southern Brazil

CANOAS, Brazil — Hundreds of volunteers have set up a makeshift dog shelter in an abandoned, roofless warehouse in the Brazilian city of Canoas, one of the hardest hit by floods since last week. They treat and feed sick, hungry or injured dogs, hoping to reunite them with their owners.

Their work was at full speed Friday morning as heavy rains are expected again in the region for the weekend.

Floods in Rio Grande do Sul have killed at least 107 people. Another 136 are reported missing and more than 230,000 have been displaced, according to state authorities. There is no official tally for the number of animals that have died or are missing, but local media estimated the number to be in the thousands.

Since Sunday, the makeshift shelter, about the size of a football pitch, has welcomed hundreds of ill and agitated canines from inundated areas. Every hour, between 20 and 30 dogs arrive, many of them injured after having been run over or nearly drowned. The shelter sends some to veterinary hospitals, but others in need of medical attention are too frail to be transported.

Hairdresser Gabriel Cardoso da Silva, 28, is one of the main organizers of the improvised facilities. He came from neighboring city of Gravatai, which was not hit by the heavy rains.

“We came here on Saturday to help rescue people. When we were about to leave, we heard the barking. I and my wife felt so moved, we just cried; we have two dogs,” said Silva.

With no government coordination for the displaced animals, many were drawn to the movement following a social media campaign.

“Sunday we had 10 volunteers, now we have 200. We have tons of food. Our community chose to embrace this, but days ago we felt so alone.”

Whenever a dog is reunited with family, the hairdresser shouts “One less!” so other volunteers can stop and applaud throughout the shelter, which is covered in dog food, chains to stop them from fighting with each other and donations.

Cardoso’s cry often mixes with loud barks of small and jittery dogs, fights between distraught homeless pets and frantic movement by desperate families trying to locate one or more of their members.

Éder Luis da Silva Camargo, a garbage collector in Canoas, found two of his six dogs at the center after searching for two days. Hunter and Preta were separated from him on Tuesday, as they boarded different boats during a rescue operation.

“They were so scared then, they ran to the side and we couldn’t run after them. Now, thank God, we found them here,” Camargo said.

He and his wife Jenifer Gabriela, 21, want to find their four dogs that are still missing: Bob, Meg, Polaca and Ravena.

“This is the third place we came to look for them. This is great, but we still want to find the others,” Gabriela said.

Animal protection groups and volunteers have shared images of difficult rescues and heartwarming scenes of pets reuniting with their owners on social media, which has spurred Brazilians to send donations and brought veterinarians to the region.

One video that went viral showed a man crying inside a boat, hugging his four dogs after rescuers went back to his home to save them.

The tough situation of animals in southern Brazil became national news this week after a horse nicknamed Caramelo garnered attention for spending days stranded on a rooftop in Canoas, not far from the shelter.

About 24 hours after he was first spotted and with people clamoring for his rescue, a team in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state on Thursday successfully removed Caramelo, providing a dose of hope to a beleaguered region.

Carla Sassi, chairwoman of Grad, a Brazilian nonprofit that rescues animals after disasters, said she met with state government officials in Canoas to discuss emergency measures to rescue pets. So far, according to volunteers, only business leaders and local residents have acted to save pets in flooded areas.

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