CROW clinic celebrates reopening on Sanibel Island

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The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, aka CROW, is reopening at its home on Sanibel nearly six months after being slammed by Hurricane Ian.

The building was never swept away in the storm, but it sustained enough damage to displace the staff and animals. With a ribbon-cutting Thursday morning, everyone is excited to return to CROW’s original location.

After the storm, CROW was too damaged to reopen on the island; it needed a place to set up shop while the clinic was repaired. That’s where the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers came in, offering its extra building to CROW and all its patients.

ARC’s dog and cat shelter was transformed to welcome injured wildlife, allowing crow to continue caring for animals in need in Southwest Florida

“We have digital radiography, we have laboratory equipment, all sorts of things that we’re used to using for dogs and cats,” said Dr. Laura Leinen, board trustee at the Animal Refuge Center. “But, obviously, those are the same things that CROW needs for their wildlife patients. So, we’re able to share those.”

CROW worker handles a tortoise. Credit: WINK News

“It was really heartbreaking to see, like, we couldn’t go back to our day-to-day work,” said Lilli Pedersen, a wildlife rehabilitation worker at CROW. “I think it’s amazing and just heartwarming that somebody would extend this to us, to be able to continue our work and just get back to it.”

ARC was used to taking in dogs and cats searching for homes, but the clinic opened its doors to creatures a bit wilder. CROW saves and treats animals of all shapes and sizes: owls, hawks, tortoises, snakes—you name it.

“It meant not having to start from four walls and a shell; there’s a lot of things that are here that we can share and things that we can bring from the island to have this facility up and running much quicker than in any other facility,” said Alison Charney Hussey, executive director of CROW. “That means so much because, again, we can take care of the animals and be back in business.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at 10:30 a.m.

“I think people will see us working together and know that the animals that they love, whether domestic or wild, are still being taken care of,” Hussey said.

Smiling faces and warm embraces went as far as the eye could see at the ribbon cutting for CROW’s return to Sanibel.

“Lots of hugs, lots of happy tears. Some of the volunteers are coming back here for the first time since the storm, seeing CROW for the first time, seeing the improvements that we’ve made in the hospital. And it’s just a happy time. Everyone’s home,” said Hussey.

That includes volunteer Sue Kressly. “It is so good to be back home. And to see all the volunteers and the staff. We’ve been separated for now months, and all dealing with our own recovery. And it’s really nice to see people coming together with hope for the future and to be able to rebuild and grow.”

CROW prepared days in advance for Hurricane Ian. It evacuated all of its patients ahead of time, but after the hurricane, several animal enclosures were too badly damaged to return.

Dr. Robin bast is the staff veterinarian. She came with first responders by helicopter the Friday following Ian. “At that point, it became evident that we weren’t going to be able to function out here for a longer period of time. Usually, we expect to be gone about three to five days for your normal storm. But for this, it was going to be months.”

Through everything, CROW never stopped taking care of their patients, but now they can do so again at home on Sanibel.

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