NEW YORK — Brendan Scott flicked his fingers though the cage to reassure Raven, his 7-year-old black cat. With his parents standing behind him, Brendan, 15, was trying not to cry.
“He’s like a little brother," he said, softly, of Raven. The cat and his orange companion in the next cage, Haley, had been bouncing from home to home — as their owners had — since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the family’s house in Queens.
On Sunday, Brendan and his parents, Ray and Michelle Scott, were among dozens of people who left their pets behind at another temporary home, a 20,000-square-foot emergency boarding center that opened over the weekend in a vacant warehouse in Brooklyn.
Run with affectionate precision by a team of disaster specialists from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the shelter housed 137 animals by Sunday evening and was expected to house a few hundred, if not more, before the week was out. The center can accommodate up to 700 animals, who are permitted to stay for 30 days free, with full veterinary care, until their owners can reclaim them.
“At least I know they’re safe, that’s what matters," Ray Scott said at the entrance. Brendan added: “I’m going to come every weekend to visit."
As the weeks of anxious uncertainty drag on for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers left homeless by the storm, pet owners have been making heart-wrenching decisions about what to do with their animals.
Jim Buonamano, 73, spent several bitter nights sleeping in his flooded, powerless home in Queens while taking care of April, a 6-year-old white German shepherd, and Bella, a 2-year-old pit bull. He contacted the city’s pet hotline after the storm, and two weeks later help arrived.
On Sunday, a man and a woman from Manhattan, who simply showed up in the Rockaways with a station wagon and a desire to volunteer, had been directed to deliver April and Buonamano to the Brooklyn shelter. Then they all went back for Bella.
“I’d rather she be someplace warm, even if I don’t see her for a month," said Buonamano, who is now staying with a brother. “She could use a bath since she was in flood water, too."
April’s arrival highlighted the effort, involving nonprofit organizations, private shelter operators, celebrity donors, veterinarians and unaffiliated volunteers, to mitigate the suffering of both humans and animals.
“The silver lining of a disaster is that some of these animals have never seen a veterinarian, or it had been a while," said Matt Bershadker, the senior vice president of the ASPCA’s anti-cruelty group, which oversees field investigations.
Veterinarians from New York and others from around the country examined every animal brought in. They were aided by animal behaviorists. Taped to the cage of a Rottweiler mix was a warning for handlers: “Very Scared."
Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s senior director of the shelter, said: “They go through much worse than humans because they don’t understand it."