OCEAN SPRINGS, MS – When Ocean Springs veterinarian Dr. Mabry Allison decided to expand his clinic, he wanted the facility to be a safe haven for pets during extreme weather.
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the expanded facility got a torture test. The clinic’s steel building and its guests came through with no fur flying.
The 6,600 square foot heavy steel building is constructed to withstand 133 mph winds. It also is located outside the special flood hazard area in a C-zone in Jackson County. A C-zone is an area considered to be at a low or moderate risk of flooding from overflowing rivers or hard rain.
Inside the clinic and boarding facility which housed 112 dogs and 12 cats during Katrina, 55 dog runs are built from steel grates with cinder block walls. The bottoms of the runs are covered with rubber matting and elevated eight inches off the floor of the building. Cats are housed in a separate facility inside the clinic.
In the aftermath of the storm, many pet owners were without shelter themselves. The Allisons admit this was one problem they did not anticipate. “One thing you don’t plan for is people not being able to come back and get their animals because they had no homes and nowhere to stay themselves,” said co-owner Stephanie Allison.
As Hurricane Katrina approached, desperate pet owners trying to shelter their pets overwhelmed the Allisons. For the 2006 hurricane season, however, the clinic notified the community that space for their pets should be reserved in advance so pets would not be turned away in the face of an approaching storm.
“We give out what we call ‘hurricane boarding passes’ to pet owners who call in advance,” explained Allison. “We set this up on the spring of 2006. Pet owners purchase a pass and are guaranteed a spot. Pets have to be here at least 24 hours before a hurricane is expected to make landfall so we will have everything we need to take care of them.”