Hurricane Harvey has left thousands of pets in the Houston area without a home. Some pets were left behind after their owners abandoned their ravaged homes, while others ran off amid the destruction.
Many animal shelters are short on space to begin with but rescue organizations and pet owners across the country are banding together to provide homes for as many pets as possible and reunite them with their owners.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
According to the Huffington Post, non-profit Austin Pets Alive! has set up an intake center in Katy, Texas that has already received approximately 2,000 pets. In addition to medical treatment, the animals are given vaccinations and food. Much of the vaccines have been donated by drug companies and the facility’s generators were delivered by AT&T. Food as well as supplies such as towels, crates, collars, and toys were brought in by pet stores and local residents. Hundreds of people have volunteered to walk, feed and clean the pets, including kids as young as 12 years old.
Learning From Experience
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, homeless animals were turned away from crowded shelters, prompting volunteers from other states to take the pets back to their shelters. This made it difficult for owners to find their pets, and the organizations acting on Hurricane Harvey learned from this well-intentioned mistake. By evacuating existing shelter animals and expanding smaller facilities, shelters can allow displaced pets to stay in their hometowns and increase the likelihood of finding their owners.
A low-cost veterinary clinic in the area, for example, was turned into a triage center where displaced kittens were weighed, examined, neutered/spayed, and finally placed in cages complete with kitty litter and toys. Another shelter in Dickinson, Texas, that normally holds about one hundred pets was modified to hold twice that amount. Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center has even been turned into a temporary shelter currently housing hundreds of pets, and a local mattress chain is reportedly allowing families with pets to stay in its stores well.
The Nation Responds
The transportation of animals was spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States, which is working with non-profits Wings of Rescue and GreaterGood.org to fly hundreds of pets to everywhere from California to Chicago to New Jersey. Each flight carries about 120 dogs and cats, which are then taken to shelters categorized as “no-kill.�?
"These pets are getting a second chance and they're making room for the other ones that need the help," Wings of Rescue founder Cindy Smith told the Chicago Tribune.
The 315 or so shelters that take in the transported animals are part of the Humane Society’s Emergency Placement Partners network. Local shelters are performing transportation efforts of their own, recently flying 69 dogs and cats from four shelters to San Francisco. These pets had been at the shelters for years, and, prior to the rescue mission, were on track for euthanasia.
"From our darkest times often comes a reason to celebrate. The fact that these facilities have opened their doors and their hearts shows how far we've come along in animal welfare," said Kimberly Alboum of the Humane Society.
What Can You Do?
A great deal of these rescue organizations are now relying on donations to continue providing space for displaced animals. Some, like the Harris County shelter, have posted Wish Lists to Amazon featuring the items they need to maintain their services. In addition to donating to the organizations featured here, perhaps the most effective way you can do to help the animals affected by Hurricane Harvey is adopt your next pet rather than go to a pet shop.
Shelters in dozens of states are receiving a massive influx of pets and would therefore benefit tremendously if more aspiring pet owners adopted their many healthy pets. Adopting from one of these shelters will prevent displaced pets from being taken too far from their owners, most of whom are already dealing with being displaced themselves.