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East Palestine residents concerned for safety of their pets trapped in evacuation zone for days

Woman who lives blocks from derailment has waited for days for 'OK' to check on pets
A dog being housed at the Columbiana County Humane Society due to the evacuation in East Palestine.
Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 08, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Growing frustrations loom from East Palestine residents who want answers from state and local leaders.

As they wait to hear what’s next, they and others say there’s another issue on the horizon.

“Please, please help the animals that are left behind. I don’t want to get rid of them and I don’t want them to die either,” said distressed East Palestine pet owner Donna Mineard.

For days, Mineard, who lives in the mandatory evacuation zone, which she says is just five blocks from the derailment, has been hoping and praying to get the "OK" to rescue her two cats.

“I just want to go home,” said Mineard. “I want to get my cats. My cats are like my kids.”

But instead, Mineard says she feels like she’s being left in the dark.

“Nobody is telling us anything,” said Mineard.

Now, she says she’s willing to risk it all.

“It’s my body. Okay, just let me go in and get my animals. I’ll wear a mask, and then whenever you guys tell us we can go home then we’ll go home,” said Mineard.

“It’s very emotionally draining. It’s frustrating,” said Columbiana County Humane Society Humane Agent Erica Rice.

Erica Rice and Teresa McGuire are taking on a tall order at the Columbiana County Humane Society in Salem, which involves housing 26 dogs from the evacuation.

Rice says this is an overwhelming job, considering their normal load is around 10 dogs.

“We made the decision, you know what, we have to do something. Someone has to, so we opened our doors to those animals,” Rice said.

Staff says these conditions can be a lot for pets who are in an unfamiliar place.

“These are stressed-out animals. We’re not their owners. They’re terrified. They’ve been through a huge ordeal,” said Columbiana County Humane Society Executive Director and Shelter Manager Teresa McGuire.

McGuire and Rice say it’s even more difficult for them to imagine how many more pets are out there — lost and confused.

“You just want to go home and cry,” said McGuire.

But they're thankful they have support from their community.

“We’re dog lovers. Just wanted to help,” said Bonnie Riggs from East Palestine.

Having been evacuated from their own home in East Palestine, Blasey Biser and Bonnie Riggs still took time to give dog food, treats and time to these dogs.

“It’s been a pretty terrible experience for everybody, but everybody does pull together and help each other so we’re glad that we’re able to do our small part,” said Riggs.

As McGuire and Rice wait for approval on how they can get in and remove other pets, they’re accepting dog and cat food, cleaning supplies like paper towels, laundry detergent, grocery bags, and volunteers who can offer their time.

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