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The other storm victims

With megaphone in hand, pet ambulance driver Kim Golden strode through the rubble of the Autumn Run subdivision in Pinellas Park and broadcast her message to distraught tornado victims.

"The SPCA is offering free board and medical care for any owned or stray animal," she said.

One cat owner, David Hartman, himself injured, heard the call and summoned Golden into his home. His cat, in shock and lying on the living room floor, had suffered head trauma, a broken jaw and facial injuries when the roof of their home collapsed during Saturday's tornadoes.

The cat, known as Kitty Cat, was immediately taken to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter where it remains in stable condition.

At the SPCA, 9099 130th Ave. in Largo, Kitty Cat joins other victims of Saturday's tornadoes: a black rabbit, a cockatiel, a pair of kittens and about 20 other dogs and cats.

Because the disaster affected a relatively small portion of the county's population, most pets will be treated and reclaimed, said Gail Rassier, SPCA executive director. About 36 lost or injured pets already have been reunited with their families. But disasters of every size and scale create problems for pet owners, she said.

"Some of the pet owners who have lost their homes will need long-term boarding for their animals, maybe for as long as six months," she said. "Other (pet owners) are on fixed incomes and will have trouble paying for medical bills."

At the SPCA, the recent tornado victims also must compete for space, time and medical attention with the 40 dogs, 23 puppies, 24 cats and 54 kittens that are awaiting adoption and six Hurricane Andrew victims in medical isolation.

"We have many healthy adoptable pets in our shelter at this time that need good loving homes," Rassier said. "We encourage anyone looking for a pet to come and tour the shelter, not only to find a companion, but to help free up some space for those sick and injured animals coming in."

Since SPCA policy dictates that all healthy, well-adjusted animals brought to the shelter will not be euthanized, the shelter's facilities, volunteers and budget are currently under a strain.

To enable concerned residents to assist with its efforts, the SPCA has set up a Tornado Relief Fund.

"The purpose of the fund is to help storm victims with their vet bills and boarding costs until their pets can be reclaimed," Rassier said. Food and supply donations also are being accepted at the shelter.

To help, visit the shelter or call 586-3591. Contributions may be sent to: SPCA, 9099 130th Ave., Largo, FL 34643.

To report or claim injured or homeless animals, visit the pet ambulance in the Autumn Run subdivision at the corner of Oakhaven and Cedarbrook drives daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or call 586-3591 24 hours a day.

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