In addition to sheltering pets of families that had to evacuate their homes, Animal Control personnel boated out several times to houses and plunged into the waters to retrieve animals trapped by the flooding on Monday and Tuesday.
The Animal Control shelter housed 23 flood evacuees altogether - 17 cats and 6 dogs from owners who had to evacuate or that were rescued from rooftops.
"No one imagined it was going to be as bad as it was," said CiJi Baker, head of the Animal Control's shelter. Some owners with high decks had put their animals out there for safety after they were told to evacuate.
At one such house on Riviera Drive, the family had left their chocolate lab Justice, thinking they would be back within a day, not realizing the fast rising waters would reach the point they did.
By the time Animal Control boat reached their deck, all they could see was the dog's muzzle sticking out of the water.
"The dog was on its hind legs, on the back deck, one paw on the (barbecue) grill. His head was up to the muzzle in the water," said Baker. "That is a lucky dog." Justice was pulled into the boat and happily reunited with his family.
Some owners refused to leave until they knew their pets were safe and secure, and Animal Control and volunteers helped locate and secure those animals to give the owners peace of mind.
At another house, personnel spotted what they thought were just a few cats stranded on the roof.
"When we first saw them, we thought, ‘Oh, there's three cats.' Before we know it, we look back, we're counting five, and then seven." Eventually, Baker and Atlanta Humane Society personnel found themselves herding 17 cats into carriers, some of which were strays and feral cats. "They were everywhere. Some of them weren't the friendliest. Some of them would jump into the water so them we had to get them out of the water."
The response from inside and outside the county was immediate, said Baker. The Atlanta Humane Society came with a 40-foot mobile trailer capable of housing up to 140 animals that was brought to Hightower Elementary, one of the staging areas for flood victims, in order to serve evacuees on the north side of the county should the bridges be closed. Hometown Animal Rescue helped with the intake of animals and two veterinarians donated their services. Community members donated supplies such as flashlights, waders and boats.
"The staff over there, I'm proud of them. They pulled together. It was great the way they worked. There was no one going home until the job was done," Baker said.
He estimated most of the evacuated families would reclaim their pets by Friday.