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'It's heartbreaking to leave part of your family behind' | East Palestine residents deal with guilt of leaving pets at home during evacuations

Shelters near the East Palestine area are stepping up to help evacuated residents having trouble caring for their four-legged family members.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — It's easy to focus on the human element of the events that have transpired in East Palestine since Friday's train derailment, uprooting the lives of thousands. 

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But as residents desperately look for answers on when they can return home, the pets of East Palestine, a significant part of those families also remains under duress: the pets of East Palestine.

Village Fire Chief Keith Drabick — tired, frustrated, and exhausted by the barrage of questions about when residents can go back home — said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, "Once I am sure that I can bring everyone home in a safe and effective manner, we will get everyone back in their homes. We will do that as quick as we can."

Erica Rose is with the Columbiana County Humane Society, a neighboring animal shelter to East Palestine. She told 3News that quickly after the evacuation notices were put in place, the shelter became overrun with animals from those trying to flee the village to safer areas.

"It is a packed house. It's pretty noisy," Rose said. "It is very stressful for these dogs, who are used to being in family homes."

Shelter manager Teresa McGuire added, "We had so many calls. We were running like crazy."

It has been a crazy, stressful time for pet owners. Those who were lucky were able to house their pets temporarily at a nearby shelter, but others were not.

Some of their four-legged family members were forced to stay in their homes inside of the evacuation area, with no help on the way. Diana James with Angels for Animals in Canfield says they want to help those pets left behind, but are struggling to care for them.

"It's heartbreaking you have to leave part of your family behind if you can't go to a shelter that accepts them," James said. "That's why Angels reached out to the community let them know if they need a safe place to bring their pets they can bring them here."

Angels for Animals not only has room for dogs, but cats as well. James says that owners have called since the disaster struck, worried that their pets left at home are in danger — not just from the fumes, but the lack of food and water. 

"We tell them, 'Your pets will be waiting on you," James stated. "They may be hungry and thirsty, but they will be waiting on you to get home. They are very resilient cats and dogs."

To seek shelter for your pet during the evacuation of East Palestine, contact Angels for Animals at (330) 549-1111.

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