Rescuing Animals in Houston


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Some animals are being rescued as evacuation efforts continue in Houston and other Texas communities as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The law mandates that, if at all possible, FEMA work to rescue pets during evacuations, but many rescuers are private, may not be trained to rescue animals, or may simply not want to rescue animals.

“For the most part what I hear is that people realize that if they don’t take pets, they won’t get people to leave,” says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug, who is currently camped at a veterinary practice in Sugar Land, Texas, with four other doctors and their families.

For now, the Sugar Land veterinary clinic is high and dry, but it may not be dry for long if the nearby Brazos River rises high enough to flood into the neighborhood, or if nearly reservoir water is released, which is causing some communities to flood worse.

I spoke to one person who is now staying with family in a part of Houston unaffected by the flooding. She was rescued by a volunteer with a boat, and was happy to share her story with me, but wanted to remain anonymous. I’ll call her “Joan.” Joan lives in an apartment complex on the Northwest side of Houston with her family and their mix-breed dog, who weighs about 35 pounds.

“A man with a boat came by and said we better get out,” she says, her voice still cracking with emotion. “The water was almost high enough to reach our second-floor apartment. We had our dog on a leash, but I couldn’t carry him because I was carrying my two babies. The dog was nearly swept away by the current. I was screaming. The man with the boat actually had to swim a ways to grab her. And I never even got his name.”

Dr. William Folger says his home and the cat practice where he works are dry. However, some veterinary clinics have flooded, and he’s heard that some animals at veterinary clinics have perished, which may have also occurred at some dog boarding facilities.

“I am certain this is the worst disaster in Houston’s history, worse than Hurricane Ike, and I am pretty confident it’s worse than Katrina, though hopefully the loss of life won’t be as great,” Folger says.

The largest single evacuation location in Houston is the George R. Brown Convention Center, where several thousand have sheltered to receive dry clothing, food, and water. Initially, animals were not permitted inside the convention center, and many pet owners who had nowhere to go and nowhere to send their pets were forced to sit outside the center in the rain with their furry family members. Fortunately, officials quickly decided to create a pet-friendly section inside.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale owns two furniture stores in the Houston area. He’s using his delivery trucks to get through the rising waters to rescue people, as well as their pets, and is allowing them to shelter inside his two stores, one in Houston and the second in Richmond. He has rescued about 800 people and dozens of animals. There are an estimated 40 to 50 dogs, two litters of puppies, and about a half dozen cats at one store location.

Why so few cats? Cats can sense human stress, and many pet cats likely hid during the evacuation, and their owners were forced to leave them behind to fend for themselves. In some of the more rural communities around Houston, people routinely let their cats outside, so there was no may to retrieve them when they were told to evacuate.

But now what? A furniture store isn’t a permanent evacuation site. McIngvale says, “We’re working on finding people alternative housing or other solutions.”

Of course, once the roads are open, some people have family they can get to. And, a small percentage can return to their homes with minimal damage.

As for the pets, McIngvale says, “Not rescuing the pets was never an option. We know and we understand how people are attached.”

McIngvale says having pets in his stores is a good distraction for everyone. Dr. Haug agrees, “Luckily, Sunny [her dog] hasn’t picked up on our stress very much. He’s just going with the flow, and is in the hallway playing right now. Having the pets here makes us feel better.”

Some animal shelters and rescues are in big trouble because of their location. I reported earlier on a Houston branch of Dallas RRR rescue, which flooded incredibly fast and without warning as a result of a reservoir release. Media coverage and social media played a role in getting the animals, who were in grave danger, rescued.

But rescuers are running out of places to locate the animals.

Outside the city itself, countless horses have lost their lives. Heartbreaking video of horses.
Austin Pets Alive saved hundreds of stranded dogs, including many from local shelters, who would otherwise have been euthanized.”The people in Houston especially weren’t really prepared for this,” Austin Pets Alive Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson told local TV. “I think it caught a lot of people unaware, and they’re just trying to save their own lives.”

Austin Pets Alive and many other shelters in the area are asking for foster homes, at least until the emergency subsides. But, getting the animals to those homes is another problem.

This is from the Austin Pets Alive website:

Austin Pets Alive! has been helping shelters in the direct line of Hurricane Harvey. We’ve been working with these shelters to transport as many pets as possible to APA! and as of Saturday morning, we’ve transported 330 animals to our shelter and are expecting 50-100+ over the next 24 hours. Because of the incredible, humbling support we’ve received from the community thus far, we have been able to remove some items from our needs list completely.

However, there is still a lot of work ahead of us. As we continue to care for the animals we have already saved, we have to prepare for even more animals who will need us in the coming days. We’ve been receiving reports from shelter partners in areas hit hardest by the hurricane and areas expecting the most flooding that over the course of the next 24-72 hours, they are anticipating another significant influx of animals that they may not be able to help. We have also heard reports of extensive lines of people surrendering their pets, so Austin Pets Alive! needs to be ready to help and brace ourselves for additional animal intake.

Some Houston-area shelters still have space, but most are over capacity. Plans are now being made to transport shelter animals to major cities in the north, including Boston, Chicago, and New York, once the waters recede, but that isn’t expected to happen for at least several days.

No doubt, the lives of those shelter animals will be saved once they are relocated. However, one lesson learned from Katrina is that some of those rescued dogs had heartworm disease. Heartworm remains an issue, but an added problem today is the canine influenza virus (dog flu). Out of the 33 positive dog flu cases in Texas (as determined by one diagnostic lab), 30 were from Harris county (which includes Houston and many surrounding cities and suburbs). The overwhelming majority of coughing dogs are not tested for flu, so if 33 dogs tested positive, that means hundreds likely had the flu. Veterinarians have agreed that dog flu (the H3N2 strain) is a significant problem in the region, and that problem will likely now be further spread around the country. Dog flu is, of course, highly contagious, so some veterinarians are going to recommend dogs receive the vaccine just because dogs are entering their communities from the Houston area.

Best Friends, American Humane Association and other groups are now on the scene to help rescue animals left behind. Best Friends has also set up a system to help people find their lost pets.

Pet Finder allows weather.com users to report lost or found animals to help reunite owners with their furkids in conjunction with PawBoost. Check out the page.

People outside the area have asked how they can help, and donations are being accepted. Be sure the organization you choose is legitimate. Also, foster homes in the area are being requested.

Here are some videos:

Dramatic rescue of animals at Dallas RRR rescue:

Posted by Dallas DogRRR – Rescue.Rehab.Reform on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What happened at Dallas DogRRR that animals needed rescuing in the first place:

UPDATE AS OF 8:33 pmWe appreciate your patience as we are trying to monitor and get updates. Here is what we know. One more load of dogs has been removed from the house. Waiting on a number on how many are remaining. The dogs left are inside of the house and the house had not taken on any water. They are being brought to the park. Trailers are needed to get the dogs to safety. They have no supplies they left with dogs in crates are the clothes on their backs. They need dog bowls, leashes, dog food, cat food, blankets, towels etc. Donations can be made via paypal at talltailsrescue@hotmail.com OR Dallas DogRRR (we will make sure all donations are transferred to them.)–REAL TIME UPDATE FROM HOUSTON-THE BOATS HAVE TURNED AROUND AND WE NEED MORE BOATS. Our dogs are there and Kat & Kevin Need our help now. They have lost everything. Boats arrived and then turned around once they heard they were saving cats and dogs!!!!! Their lives matter too!!Our Rescue Partners in Houston have never EVER turned their back on any animals in need and today they have been disgraced when the boats turned around and refused to help all of the animals in the Medical boarding compound. Any time we have ever called Kat to get a dog from the euth list or on the streets, she has ALWAYS gone within 5 minutes. As of this moment Kat was able to remove 100 dogs from the compound and get them on a field in crates. 30 dogs and cats remain at the compound and Kat has been forcibly removed from the property and the emergency crew would not take the rest of the dogs. These dogs will not survive unless we get the word out now. Mcbeth our dog is one of those 30 dogs and Harlin is out in the field in the crate. Emergency personnel is threatening to turn every dog loose. This is it. PLEASE DO NOT BASH ANYONE ON HERE. PLEASE TAG AND SHARE–We need boats to get to Kats now! Break down the damn door break the windows ram through the gates and help save lives PLEASE. We are oofering a $3,000 reward if you can get the dogs out PLEASE HELP. These dogs will be dead in the next few hoursDonate at: dallasdogrrr.ORG/DONATETo foster or adopt a HARVEY RELEIF DOG and you live within 4 hrs of nyc please fill out an app at :nycsecondchancerescue.orgIf you are withing 3 hours of Dallas Ft Worth fill the app out at our texas branch partners of : DallasDogrrr.org413 Speights Loop RoadHankamer, TX 77560Please share, we need help and we need it NOW!!!We have been in contact with her since Friday they have been fine and out of the danger zone she is not in the mandatory evacuation area. They order certain areas that needed to be mandatory again she was not in those areas she has been out of the danger zone. She was actually taking evacuees dogs. she woke up to all this water after they opened 3 dams.

Posted by Dallas DogRRR – Rescue.Rehab.Reform on Monday, August 28, 2017

People outside Houston Convention Center with pets before they were allowed inside.

A Fox News report on how animal rescue groups, and private individuals, are rushing to help best they can:

 

 

One of the more odd stories: A Cooper’s Hawk seeking refuge inside a moving taxi (wonder what the fare was?):

 

 

 

 

 

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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