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Over 60 Barnsdall animals rescued by one-woman Pawhuska shelter operation

Posted at 7:27 PM, May 21, 2024

PAWHUSKA, Okla. — The kennel doors at ‘4 Paws’ animal shelter in Pawhuska had been open for four weeks before the Barnsdall tornado hit.

Overnight, the facility filled up with the pets of the families who had been displaced in the storm.

Susie Owens, the shelter operator, didn’t hesitate for a minute. She said she drove over to Barnsdall as soon as she could after the storms decimated the town.

“About 6:30 Tuesday morning, I just took off and went,” she said. “I started looking around, helping as many people as I could with their animals.”

Before the tornado, Owens had 12 dogs in her care at the shelter. In the days that followed the storm, she took in an additional 61 animals from people who had lost their homes.

51 dogs, 4 cats and 6 chickens.

“We were just going anywhere, and getting any animal we could, asking people if they needed help, what could we do to help them,” said Owens. “I was there for three days straight, and it was devastating. I’ve never seen anything like that. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but that tornado, it was something.”

Her first thought when the storms hit was ‘Where would the pets go?’ Owens said it was sheer luck that ‘4 Paws’ had opened just four weeks prior, and she was blessed to have the space to help them.

“I’m lucky that the families trust me to take care of their animal,” she said. “I walk in in the mornings, and you see the joy on their face because they know their safe, so it’s all worth it to me.”

About 20 of the Barnsdall animals have been able to go home in the last few weeks.

Although it's been overwhelming to take in so many animals at once, Owens said she's told the owners to take their time taking care of themselves and leave the caring for their pets to her.

“I currently have 67 animals, 31 of those are still Barnsdall dogs," said Owens. "Some of them will be here long term, but they’re here as long as they need to be. You know, those people need to focus on them, and getting their homes back in order, and then they can come take their dogs home.”

Owens has even taken some of the pets remaining to visit their owners who have no means of transportation to visit the shelter on their own.

“Some of them, I don’t know what they would have done,” said Owens. “You just don’t know where your animal is going to end up, and a lot of people already knew me from the area because I’ve helped Barnsdall for so many years, so I think that made them feel a little bit better knowing where they were going. I’m just blessed that we had the facility open in time so that we did have a place to take them, because I don’t know where the animals would have ended up.”

For the families whose future is up in the air, Owens said their animals are welcome with her at 4 Paws, as long as they need a place to stay.

“I don’t want to run out of space,” she said. “I have a restroom, I have an office, I have a kitchen, I have a playroom, and they were all full at one time. If I have to use those rooms, I will. I will make sure those dogs have a place to stay.”

Owens operates the shelter almost completely on her own, with the help from a few friends on occasion.

4 Paws runs solely off of donations. With such a quick increase in capacity at the shelter, Owens said it has been a financial strain to take care of all of these additional animals.
To support Owens, the Barnsdall pets and the shelter, a donation link can be found on their website.

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