Why Harvey's four-legged victims will likely find love again
TEXAS - Amazing rescue stories are coming out of areas ravished by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding. But perhaps some of the most touching rescues involve pets.
As flood waters rose, Texas residents were forced to leave everything behind, for many that meant their four-legged family members.
The Humane Society of the United States along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other local rescues are currently on the ground coordinating and executing the rescue of pets left behind.
Lindsay Hamrick, the New Hampshire State Director for HSUS, said an HSUS rescue team was one of the first to receive a Memorandum of Understanding with five cities in the affected region. Hamrick said the agreement is essential to have "with cities or towns in order to be able to get on the ground.”
Hamrick said a team four is searching homes where owners have reported their pets have been left. The animals rescued will then go to emergency shelters as well as local animal shelters.
A lesson learned from Katrina
Unlike Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area in 2005, shelter animals were transported out of many Texas rescues before the storm in preparation, leaving the animal shelters vacant to be able to house pets in hope of being reunited with their owners after the flood waters recede.
“The majority of Katrina animals came to New England and the Northeast, so they were never reunited with their people,” Hamrick said. “So there was almost no reunification. The goal this time around, is to keep as many displaced pets in Texas so people can actually get reunited with them.”
Virginia Moore, executive director of the Conway Area Humane Society said they will transport shelter dogs to New Hampshire from Operation Pets Alive located in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston, in a couple weeks.
For the Love of Dog, an animal rescue located in Swanzey, is also doing their part.
Operations Manager, Dale Green said they coordinate transports from Texas every month. Their next scheduled transport is Sept. 13 from PAWS for Irving Animals in Irving, Texas. PAWS has already taken in about 135 displaced pets from Hurricane Harvey. For the Love of Dog will transport 20 shelter dogs from PAWS to the Swanzey shelter so PAWS has more room for Harvey pets.
"Moving their current shelter population to New England will give many of the displaced animals a safe place to be where they can receive medical treatment and be closer to their former owners," Green said.
Green said this is a much better method than what happened after Katrina.
"After Hurricane Katrina, we held dogs for four months while the owners were hopefully found. Of the 72 dogs that we took, only two were returned to their owners - one was flown back to the owner, the other was returned by car to the owner who had relocated to New York State," Green recalled. "That four months put a bottleneck on our own rescue efforts."
From New Hampshire to Texas
“The same fleet of vehicles that was in New Hampshire is now in Texas helping with Hurricane Harvey,” Hamrick said.
The HSUS responds to both natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, and man-made disasters like the cruelty case in Wolfeboro. Hamrick said handling these two situations simultaneously can be challenging.
“Thanks to our incredible donors and volunteers, we’re able to provide exceptional care to the Great Danes here in New Hampshire while saving animals in the path of Hurricane Harvey.”
But Hamrick admits, coordinating two very different types of large-scale rescues takes a great deal of planning and a bit of luck.
“Thankfully we had already sent our Animal Rescue Team vehicle fleet back to its staging area in the Southeast a few weeks after the rescue (Wolfeboro) but let’s say Harvey had happened a week after the Wolfeboro case, we would have to drive our entire fleet from New Hampshire to Texas to respond so it was no small feat that we had everything back in place before the natural disaster,” Hamrick said.
Should you drive to Texas to help? Answers to this question and many more on the HSUS Frequently Asked Questions page. (hint: The answer is no.)