116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Diane Webber marked the end of her seventh year in Cedar Rapids with the same kind of event that brought her in the first place: a flood.
Webber, program manager for Cedar Rapids Animal Care & Control, originally was dispatched to Cedar Rapids during the 2008 flood as part of her role as director of Disaster Preparedness and Shelter Management for the Humane Society of the United States. For six weeks, Webber coordinated the intake and care of more than 1,300 animals, including those left behind by evacuees.
When the floodwaters receded, it was Webber's job to make sure all of those flood-displaced animals were reclaimed by their owners or surrendered for adoption.
'There was no animal left behind after the flood,” she said of 2008.
In her work with the Human Society of the United States, Webber responded to more than 13 hurricanes - including Hurricane Katrina - wildfires, floods, tornadoes and more than two dozen hoarding and puppy mill cases.
But it was Cedar Rapids she fell in love with, she said.
'I really came to love the community and the people here,” she said. 'The spirit here throughout the flood was just amazing. You don't see that in very many communities at all.”
So, when the city was looking for a permanent director of the animal care program, Webber was happy to come back.
Since then, the city has moved out of the former animal shelter on Cedar Bend Lane - which was destroyed in the historic flood - and to a new facility that opened in 2014 on 76th Avenue Drive SW.
Webber said one of her biggest challenges during her seven years in Cedar Rapids has been changing the 'bad impression” people have about what Animal Care and Control does.
'We want to be the go-to place for animal related issues in our community and I think we've achieved that,” she said. 'But you can never stop. It's an ongoing challenge.”
'In a lot of ways, the flood was a blessing to this agency,” she added. 'It gave us the opportunity to rebuild and reprogram.”
There have been other, smaller challenges as well. In August, the shelter - like others in the area - was inundated with kittens thanks, Webber said, to a mild spring. Webber addressed that by offering adoptions for just $6 during the agency's annual pet fair.
'We had people lined up out the door, waiting with cat carriers,” she said. Shelter workers adopted out 28 cats and six dogs in four hours, she said.
And, of course, there was the second go-round with a flood in late September. Webber said the 2016 flood was 'nowhere to the level of 2008.”
'I attribute a lot of that to the preparedness of the community and how quickly they stepped up to the plate,” she said.
During the 2016 flood, the shelter took on 70 animals left there by evacuees. All but one of them was returned to its owner.
'That was tremendous,” Webber said. 'More than half of the 2008 flood animals were not able to go back home.”