EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WJW) – Columbiana Humane Society officials are hoping they can soon go to multiple homes in East Palestine to rescue or at a minimum feed pets left behind when owners were forced to quickly evacuate due to the train derailment.
“A lot of people had to leave Friday or Saturday and many thought they would be able to go back,” said Erica Rice, a humane agent with the Columbiana County Humane Society. “Some animals are in crates and are most likely without food or water by now.”
The kennel, located at 1825 S. Lincoln Ave. in nearby Salem, is caring for about 30 dogs from evacuees and has received about 50 calls from people worried about their pets left behind.
Some of the owners were at work Sunday and unable to retrieve their animals.
“The situation had devolved to being extremely dangerous,” said Rice. “That’s why a lot of dogs got left behind. Pet owners are absolutely devastated right now and desperate to get their animals.”
Rice said she is in close contact with authorities in East Palestine and they are to notify her as soon as it is safe to enter.
In the meantime, they are creating a map of all the stranded pets so that they can quickly reach them once permitted inside the restricted zone.
Officials are still monitoring the wreckage of the massive, fiery train derailment that happened on Friday. To avoid a potentially “catastrophic” explosion of rail cars, five of which were carrying vinyl chloride, a controlled release and burn of the chemical from the cars occurred at 4 p.m. Monday.
However, the controlled detonation caused the chemical to break down into a deadly and dangerous mixture of hydrogen chloride and phosgene gas, which is more commonly known as the chemical weapon Mustard Gas used during World War 1.
“We do know the substance is extremely toxic and breathing is very dangerous,” said Rice, who has alerted local veterinarians.
The vets are now preparing to treat animals with skin burns and lung damage.
“The vets say there’s very little owners can do for their animals in this situation. They would need veterinary care, steroids to help with inflammation of course and if there is a physical exposure, skin burns and things like that, you’re going to want to rinse that chemical off the skin,” said Rice.
She said they plan to bring bottled water when they enter the area to help with that and in case there is a disruption in service since many of the pets have gone without drinking water for days.
Several other local agencies will be helping with the rescue effort, but they still need volunteers to assist at the shelter.
Donations would also be greatly appreciated to help them care for more animals than they are currently able to handle.
“This is unprecedented for our extremely small rural shelter, she said.
“We are hoping to at least get food and water to these pets,” Rice said.
It is not known when people will be allowed back in their homes.
The humane society is also accepting donations of dog food, dog treats, chain link fencing, dog pens, straw and tarps in the wake of the situation. Learn more at their website.