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Mary rescued the black pup atop her lap at 3 weeks. Baby Girl was among 4 pups with seizures whom guardians planned to kill.

Cats hunker down with Kinship Circle's Mary Kelly and Bill Allman
for a long night of Irene's wrath in a shelter basement.

A road floods in front of the Red Cross evacuee complex where Kinship Circle's Mary Kelly and Bill Allman care for animals.

Kinship Circle volunteer Bill Allman drove for hours, through Hurricane Irene's outer band, to reach the animal sheltering operation in New Jersey. He barely missed some trees that snapped like toothpicks over roads.

The Red Cross Co-Shelter, situated at Saint Augustine College Prep School in Atlantic County, New Jersey.

As Irene's dark waves crept toward New Jersey, this black-white cat smashed against the back of her cage and tried to chomp off Kinship Circle volunteer Mary Kelly's hand, if offered water or comfort. Yet when her family (evacuated to the human section of the shelter) stopped by, the cat morphed into Ms. Sweetheart. She purred and wrapped paws around her human mama's neck in a feline hug. A lot of crying and hugging ensued between the family and their relieved kitty.

Animals weather Irene in a secure basement under care of Kinship Circle's Mary Kelly and Bill Allman. Photos by Bill Allman, Kinship Circle, Hurricane Irene 2011

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"I do it for the animals and their people."

And what a job she does! When Irene loomed over northeastern states in late August 2011, Kinship Circle had a 24-48 hour window to call Emergency Operating Centers in states/counties along the hurricane's projected path. Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness and Monmouth County EOC, New Jersey, requested our aid with animal sheltering at Red Cross centers. First, a shout out to Red Cross New Jersey Chapter for showing how ALL states should conduct evacuations — people and pets together.

Still, how could we find a skilled emergency sheltering volunteer to deploy in under 24 hours? Said person would not only care for distressed animals, manage intake⁄release, illness⁄injury and ride out Irene…but also head our team with confidence and wit.

And then came Mary.

We called. We asked. She packed. "You cannot imagine how much I appreciate the opportunity to assist an evacuee with their animals, not to mention the love I get from any animal comforted during a disaster," Mary says.

The love is mutual. Red Cross staff and volunteer vets in New Jersey had nothing but praise for Mary's jump-in work ethic — whether lugging large kennels to transfer animals from a pole barn to the more secure basement of a conservatory at Saint Augustine College Preparatory School (where the Red Cross Co-Shelter was located)…or staying up all night to soothe animals as Irene roared ashore from 4:00-6:00am on 8/28/11.

When asked what motivates her devotion to animal disaster victims, Mary says that Hurricane Katrina changed her life. In 2005, Mary was deployed to the Lamar-Dixon shelter in Gonzales, LA for search and rescue in flooded New Orleans. Images of sorrow, despair and hope still resonant from Katrina's wasteland.

She recalls entering one gutted home with a ladder poked through an attic hole. Someone had frantically sawed the jagged hole to escape rising waters below. When sent to pick up four abandoned pit bulls in another yard, Mary's team found haggard, starving dogs. With the help of three National Guardsmen, they managed to transport the aggressive dogs to safety…

Mary's career has included a position as Director of Operations at SPCA of Tompkins County in Ithaca, NY (the nation's first no-kill shelter!) Off the clock, she has deployed as an animal first responder for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. She served as a oiled wildlife spotter and documentarian in the Gulf Oil disaster, working under a partnership between World Animal Awareness Society and Kinship Circle.

She has assisted U.S. Humane Coalition and Grand Bahamas Humane Society in development of mobile spay-neuter operations that exist today. Mary served as consultant to Jefferson Parish, LA leadership in efforts to redefine goals and mission of two parish shelters with over 18,000 animals in yearly intake. She helped create and still advises a NOLA No-Kill Task Force.

Mary's many years managing a large shelter staff and adoption center are only half the story. The other 50% of Mary is stamina and the clarity of knowing that each life saved is a furry miracle.

Mary rescued the little black pup tumbling on her lap at 3 weeks of age. Baby Girl was among 4 seizure pups whose former guardians planned to kill her. After multiple vet visits, dewormings, and good nutrition, three of the four Elmira, NY puppies were seizure-free and rehomed. But Baby Girl required anticonvulsant medications. Since medicated, her last seizure was in early July. In this photo, Baby's recently acquired "big sister" joins in the fun. Mary currently lives with Bella Rose, a victim of divorce with congestive heart failure who was slated for euthanasia in Pennsylvania. Now on four medications, Bella happily runs around like a puppy!

Mary Landford, DVM — among 4 local veterinarians leading NJ animal sheltering operations — and Kathy Kelsey, Atlantic County Animal Shelter Manager, expressed gratitude for Kinship Circle volunteers. They were confident in Mary Kelly and Bill Allman's capable oversight. Dr. Landford said our volunteers gave her "freedom to actually go home and take a shower without worrying about the animals." If this disaster served as a pilot for protocol to come, she added, "it worked!" Despite traumatic circustances, evacuees were all smiles when united with their animals.

Dr. Langford had special kudos for Mary Kelly, stating that she hit the ground running. She praised Mary's people and management skills. "Mary made evacuees smile because of the care she gave their animals."

Kinship Circle thanks all its Hurricane Irene volunteers, including those on standby. Disasters are unpredictable! We look forward to calling upon these skilled individuals the next time animals need us.

Kinship Circle's Mary Kelly (foreground, in blue shirt) comforts evacuee animals in a basement setting at a Red Cross Shelter in Richland, NJ, as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Atlantic County, New Jersey Office of Emergency Preparedness (EMA) requested Kinship Circle's assistance for an animal sheltering complex at a Red Cross Co-Shelter on the grounds of Saint Augustine College Preparatory School in Richland. They also asked for standby volunteers for an emergency shelter at a nearby racetrack, where Atlantic County Animal Shelter had evacuated pre-Irene. Monmouth County Emergency Operating Center (EOC) contacted us to help with animal care at Red Cross Shelters in Colts Neck and Hamilton, NJ. We are impressed that New Jersey remembers companion animals in their disaster plans!


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spacer spacer KINSHIP CIRCLE
Animal Advocacy  |  Education  |  Disaster Aid  •  •
314-795-2646  |  7380 Kingsbury Blvd  |  Saint Louis, MO 63130 USA

●  Federal 501c3 under U.S. IRS ruling, Public Charity Status: 170b1Avi
●  Tax Employee Identification Number (EIN) available upon request
●  Nonprofit Certificate of Incorporation, Charter: N00071626