If you’ve ever thought about adding to your family by adopting a pet, now would be a really good time.
As of Thursday morning, U.S. Coast Guard crews estimate they have rescued more than 9,000 people and more than 1,000 pets since Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf region last Friday. Rescue missions continue as the flooding crisis has left households stranded on roof tops along with their four-legged family members, who have no idea what is happening.
The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed more than 500 service members to Texas, thus far, and more teams are on the way. Coast Guard crews are managing around-the-clock rescues in Houston. They recently rescued a dog from a roof and a cat from a balcony and tweeted a side-by-side photo of the critters, looking scared and confused, but safe at last.
When a disaster strikes, animal shelters throughout the country must do what they can to find homes for displaced pets. These agencies are typically overcrowded in the best of times, but Hurricane Harvey continues to be about the worst thing that ever happened to Texas- and Louisiana-area pets, not to mention the farm- and wild-life that have been affected. But that’s another issue.
Right now, there are cats and dogs and other small critters that may have been rescued off the roofs of what was left of their homes and are in need of a place to stay until their owners can sort things out.
— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) August 31, 2017
Shelters in the path of the storm need to ensure that their animals aren’t left behind to starve or drown. And when the flood waters recede, they must also have plenty of open kennel space to take in all of the lost, abandoned, and stray pets rescued by their volunteers.
911 Foster Pets has compiled a list of the more than 300 shelters and rescue groups that will need help either directly or indirectly. Each one will need help in different ways, as each will play different roles. Many of the shelters will become “ground zero” for the lost and abandoned animals in their areas, while other rescue groups will be the “behind the scenes” heroes that will find foster families and volunteers to take in all the overflow.
One thing is certain: They will all need resources, supplies, and volunteers. So, please reach out and help them in any way you can.
You may search for pets in need at www.911fosterpets.com.
— 911 Foster Pets (@911fosterpets) August 28, 2017
Pet evacuation plans are different than they were ten years ago.
Many changes on evacuation plans for animals now seen during natural disasters came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Back then, there was no formal evacuation plan for animals, and the Louisiana Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals estimated that at least 50,000 and 70,000 pets across the Gulf Coast died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
During the hurricane, nearly half the people who needed to be rescued refused to go without their pets, and first responders would not take them — even service animals. Now, U.S. law requires every Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster plan to include a way to evacuate pets.
Since then, government agencies and animal welfare groups have improved coordination efforts to better organize disaster response. Groups such as the ASPCA have also made changes during rescues, including better ways of identifying where pets were found and bringing them into emergency shelters to increase the likelihood of reuniting them with their owners.
Pet rescue shelters in states across the country are preparing to send assistance in the coming days. Ask your local pet shelter what they’re doing for some of the most innocent victims of Harvey, and consider donating items such as dog crates and cat carriers; dog and cat food; bedding; snacks; and food and water bowls.
Some animals that were already in the shelter’s care before the storm were flown to animal centers in other states to make room for displaced pets from Harvey. On Tuesday morning, the first flight full of dogs and cats took off from San Antonio, bound for New Jersey. On Wednesday, a flight took a bunch of critters all the way to Seattle.
“There’s a likelihood that this could go on for weeks because as the waters recede, they are going to be finding more and more pets that are displaced,” said Kim Alboum, a director at the Humane Society of the United States, which was organizing the flights.
A dog named Otis has become a heroic symbol of survivorship after escaping the house he was staying in during the middle of the storm on Friday night. Neighbors spotted Otis on Saturday, carrying a bag of his dog food, and one even snapped a photo of him, which went viral on Facebook, with the caption: “This dog is walking around Sinton TX carrying an entire bag of dog food with him. LOL #refugee.”
The post was updated later: “He was headed towards his home when the photo was taken. Owner confirmed he made it.”
US Coast Guard rescues a man and his dogs.
— CNN (@CNN) August 31, 2017