Pets also given shelter by Sissonville church
Among the hundreds of people being served in Sissonville by Aldersgate United Methodist Church are some four-legged family members.
Pat Taylor, an Aldersgate UMC member and a coordinator for the church's shelter, said people have been bringing in animals since the shelter opened on Saturday. The church recently finished most of its new Multipurpose Community Center, and a generator was providing electricity and air conditioning.
"People are concerned about their animals," he said, adding that the church houses more pets during dinnertime and overnight than during the day.
Pets must stay in cages during their stay in an unfinished part of the church's community center. Although the area isn't entirely complete, it is air-conditioned.
Two of the church's canine visitors were part of the McClanahan family, who had been staying intermittently at Aldersgate since Saturday.
"It's been wonderful here," Keith McClanahan said. "The people are so nice."
Keith said he and his wife, Anna, and their 13-month-old daughter, Isabella, first heard about the shelter on the radio while waiting for gas and ice in Ripley on Saturday. He said since the dogs are Chihuahuas, the heat doesn't really bother them but the family was concerned about "just leaving them there for so long at a time."
At the Kanawha-Charleston Animal Shelter on Greenbrier Street, the power was back on by Monday evening after having been out since Friday. Despite the outage, Donna Clark, the shelter's executive director, said the facility wasn't unbearable for the animals.
"As long as we kept the doors and windows shut, it stayed pretty cool in here," she said. "It never got above 80."
The shelter was closed during the outage, but workers checked on the animals twice a day to make sure there was adequate food and water. The shelter has resumed normal hours with the return of electricity.
Some pet owners without electricity have been taking their animals to kennels. At Animal Care Associates in Charleston, Carmel Gray, a registered veterinary technician, said while she hadn't seen a rise in cases of pet ailments related to heat, the clinic is full of pets whose owners have had electric out.
"We have a tremendous amount of boarders," Gray said.
But for pets being kept in homes without electricity or air conditioning, she said there are ways to keep animals cool and healthy during hot days.
Gray said animals need water constantly and a shady place to stay out of direct sunlight. Dogs should not be kept in direct sunlight for more than an hour, she said.
"They need access to shade," Gray said. "A dog house is not enough."
In addition, Gray suggested that pets be allowed in basements or bathrooms since plumbing can keep those areas cooler than the rest of the house. If the owner has access to power, fans can help keep pets cool. Ice can be added to water, but it's not necessary. Canned food can be added to animals' diets to increase hydration.
Even with precautions, pets still could become overheated. Gray said signs of dehydration and subsequent heat exhaustion include dry mouth; excessive, continuous panting, including in cats; high temperature (normal range is 100.5 to 102.5 for dogs and cats, though cats can show greater variance); if animals act "drunken" or are staggering; or have seizures and convulsions.