Forty days & 40 nights of high water expected
(See also Tropical Storm Harvey: helping animals caught in harm’s way; Brian Davies puts $49,562 toward Harvey animal rescue, challenges others to match it; and Which Hurricane Harvey animal relief charity took the Labor Day weekend off?)
HOUSTON, Texas––Will torrential rains from Hurricane-turned-tropical –storm Harvey continue to batter southeast Texas for 40 days and 40 nights?
Likely not, but disruptions to transportation due to high water probably will, with no point in Texas even half as high as Mount Ararat, Turkey, where Noah’s Ark reputedly came to rest.
Damage to homes and businesses, including animal shelters and other animal care facilities, will take even longer to repair. But as of sundown on August 27, 2017, the extent of the damage is hard to predict, because as much as half the anticipated rainfall and flooding has yet to occur.
Catastrophe centers on Houston
Sweeping inland and drifting slowly over the rural South, rain and high winds from Harvey hit as far north as Little Rock, Arkansas, and were felt as far east as southeastern Tennessee, but the most catastrophic effects centered on Houston.
Pre-planned animal shelter evacuations often just relocated animals from one hard-hit region to another, obliging further movements to escape the ever widening path of the storm.
Weather experts had expected Hurricane Harvey, the biggest storm to strike the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, would hit the Coastal Bend region hardest, from Corpus Christi to Rockport, with the highest winds and heaviest rain likely to fall over the sparsely populated region from South Padre Island north.
The disaster came to the rescue teams
Animal rescue teams prepared to deploy from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, only to find the disaster coming to them––especially in Houston, where the deluge had already brought as much as 30 inches of rain in three days and is expected to bring 50 inches or more in less than a week.
Unlike after Hurricane Katrina, when disaster relief agencies tried to evacuate the entire population of New Orleans and many low-lying suburbs, leaving thousands of animals behind, relatively little animal abandonment is anticipated in association with Hurricane Harvey. Residents of Houston and other affected cities, other than those who voluntarily evacuated as the storm approached, have been advised to stay home and shelter in place, with their pets.
Six times more people affected than were hit by Katrina
But the total human population of Houston and suburbs alone is more than six times the total human population of the New Orleans metropolitan area, meaning that even if a much smaller percentage leave animals behind or surrender them to shelters than did in and around New Orleans, the animal rescue community could easily end up handling at least as many animals.
At that, humane societies, animal control agencies, and other animal rescue organizations will have jurisdiction to help only about half––or less––of the estimated animal population in the region. Along with pets, the south Texas area includes many of the biggest biomedical research facilities in the world.
Major primate labs & zoos
“Both Covance and SNBL have facilities in Alice, Texas,” near San Antonio, mentioned Stop Animal Exploitation Now cofounder Michael Budkie in a posting to International Primate Protection League founder Shirley McGreal’s Facebook page. Between the two, Covance and SNBL may house well over 9,000 macaques.
The south Texas region also includes many of the world’s biggest cattle ranches and dairy barns, several dozen major zoos and exotic wildlife sanctuaries, and both state and national wildlife refuges of significance.
The Houston Zoo animals were all safe as of mid-day on August 27, 2017, according to Facebook postings, but the zoo was closed to the public, apparently for the duration of the rainfall and high water. Dallas Zoo personnel were prepared to accommodate evacuated zoo animals if necessary.
The Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation sanctuary, of Bourne, Texas, and the nearly Primarily Primates sanctuary and Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, all reported having undertaken days of preparation for whatever might come. All three sanctuaries have survived significant disasters before, including flooding.
Predicted Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, “Very high winds and heavy rain may lead to an increased number of displaced, orphaned and adult animals in need of rescue. WRR will be ready around-the-clock to receive any animals in need of care.”
Ingleside shelter collapsed
The first report of significant damage to animal care facilities to reach ANIMALS 24-7 came from Ingleside, a suburb of Aransas Pass.
Said the Coastal Bend Chronicle, of Rockport, “The Ingleside Animal Control building has collapsed. Animals in the shelter were apparently left behind with animal control officers,” believed to be chief animal control officer Jennifer Salinas and assistant animal control officer Sue Cave.
Aransas Pass animal control officer Jessica Dougherty told ANIMALS 24-7 that her agency had temporarily accommodated the Ingleside animals, while relaying as many as could be transported to Pets Alive in Austin and San Antonio. At the time she called, Dougherty said, three animals remained in the Aransas Pass shelter awaiting transport.
Austin & San Antonio Pets Alive
Animal control shelters in Corpus Christi, Nueces, Robstown, and elsewhere in the Coastal Bend area also sent animals to Austin and San Antonio.
Austin Pets Alive, despite a long history of overcrowding while attempting to implement a no-kill policy, claimed to have “saved over 235 animals from Harvey’s direct path,” but warned via Facebook that “shelter partners in areas hit hardest by the hurricane and areas expecting the most flooding are anticipating another significant influx of animals.”
Having experienced serious local flooding as recently as 2015, the Pets Alive facilities sandbagged the most vulnerable parts of their shelters.
Evacuations crossed storm’s path
Posted the SPCA of Texas at 2:18 p.m. on August 25, “More than 120 evacuated cats from The Cattery Cat Shelter in Corpus Christi have just arrived at the SPCA of Texas’ Animal Rescue Center, empowered by PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief. All cats are doing great! A few need to continue their medical treatment before being made available for adoption. They all need to rest; we’re happy to have them here with us.”
Said the Austin Humane Society, “So far, we have transferred over 60 animals from shelters in the path of Hurricane Harvey and we are prepared for anything that may come next.”
Thirty-nine of the animals arriving at the Austin Humane Society came from the Beaumont Animal Shelter, four hours east by the fastest route––which, ironically, passed through Houston, before anyone realized how hard Houston would be hit.
The Louisiana SPCA, of New Orleans, moving animals in the opposite direction ahead of the storm, “loaded up about 30 adoptables [on August 25] at 11 p.m. and drove them to our friends at the Atlanta Humane Society,” a Facebook posting said. “This allows us to free up much needed space,” the posting explained, “should we need to assist with animal rescue efforts from Hurricane Harvey.”
Humane Society of the U.S.
“Most coastal shelters in the threatened areas have evacuated their animals,” blogged Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle on August 25.
“Our team has assisted in moving 60 animals out of Corpus Christi shelters and into SPCA of Texas in Dallas,” Pacelle said. “Our senior state director in Texas, Katie Jarl, reports that the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services has set up an emergency sheltering system for evacuees arriving there with pets.
“We have received queries from Texans further inland asking how they can help,” Pacelle continued. “One way to do so is by taking in animals to foster, thereby reducing overcrowding in the shelters. Shelters that are taking in evacuees, like San Antonio Animal Care Services and SPCA of Texas, are also running low on essential dog supplies,” Pacelle mentioned, “and donations of items like newspapers, blankets, towels, and other pet supplies are welcome.”
Black Beauty Ranch
The HSUS disaster relief staging area was set up at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, near Tyler, Texas, a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Corpus Christi, but only three and a half hours from Houston.
As Hurricane Harvey subsided into Tropical Storm Harvey, and the continuing heavy rains hitting Houston became the focus of the disaster, the decision to set up at the Black Beauty Ranch instead of closer to the Coastal Bend was fortuitous.
PetsSmart Charities had on August 24 delivered 20 tons of pet food to Houston, for distribution by the Houston Food Bank.
Fortifying Houston to wait out Harvey also proved to be a fortunate choice.
The Houston SPCA suspended routine program services a day later, “including appointments, adoptions, education and client care. Our work in the community will continue,” the Houston SPCA pledged, “including rescues, investigations and the care of our animals,” while the Houston SPCA Wildlife Center of Texas tried to remain open to handle rescued wild animals.
“If you find any orphaned wildlife during the storm,” a Houston SPCA Facebook post advised, “the most important thing to do is keep them warm.”
The Houston SPCA acknowledged receiving two tons of Hill’s pet food “to help meet the needs of pets and people who may be affected by Hurricane Harvey.” The Houston SPCA was also designated to receive $5,000 in disaster relief funding from the Network for Animals, an international organization formed by Brian Davies, who earlier founded the International Fund for Animal Welfare and headed it for 29 years before retiring in 1998.
Houston Humane & Citizens for Animal Protection
Across the city, the other two major Houston-area shelters, the Houston Humane Society and Citizens for Animal Protection, both closed for the duration of flooding severe enough to make travel dangerous.
The Houston Humane Society posted that it was “fortunate our buildings are not underwater. The far parking lot has flooded,” the organization acknowledged, “but water is slowly draining. We are lucky to have dedicated, key staff on site to medicate, clean, feed, and care for our residents. We have personnel staying overnight to be ready to take action if water starts to come in.
Said Citizens for Animal Protection, “Our retention pond is almost full, but hanging in there. Kudos to the staff members who are staying overnight at the shelter to keep an eye on our homeless pets.”
Ironically, Citizens for Animal Protection had already endured a multi-day closure “due to a plumbing emergency,” which had prevented the shelter staff from using the CAPS washing machines and had obliged the shelter to rely on bottled water while repairs were made.
In Galveston, reported the SPCA of Brazoria County, as of mid-day on August 27, 2017 “The shelter building is still fine with no wind damage or flooding. Our power is on.”
But like every other animal shelter in the region, the SPCA of Brazoria County pleaded for help.
“We currently have 366 pets (234 cats and 132 dogs) in our building with more coming in by the minute. Including pets in foster homes, we have 687 pets in our care,” the SPCA of Brazoria County posted. “With more parts of our county under mandatory evacuation orders, we are preparing for significant numbers of animals to arrive over the next several days. Brazoria County has a Companion Animal Shelter set up at the fairgrounds for owned pets of people under mandatory evacuation orders. However, the owners must provide care and supplies for their own pets and come at least twice daily to care for them. Strays will continue to come to us until we can no longer accept them.
“Some of our employees are flooded in or have evacuated. We have nine employees and a handful of volunteers here caring for 366 + pets. If you can help, we need you,” the SPCA of Brazoria County update finished.
“Under no circumstances should you self-deploy”
The National Animal Care & Control Association meanwhile was “preparing a list of animal control and animal care personnel who may be able to assist with disaster relief efforts associated with Hurricane Harvey,” but said that it would “screen potential responders before forwarding any names on to our partners. Under no circumstances should you self-deploy!” NACA warned.
“If you were to appear at any location without receiving the authorization to do so, you would not be permitted to assist.
“Please check your calendar and list your dates of availability between now and the end of September 2017,” NACA asked. “Responders will be asked to deploy for a minimum deployment of seven full days, comprised of five working days with a travel day on both ends.”
Potential respondents were asked to fill out a screening form at
Where was RedRover, the Sacramento-based organization long known for training disaster relief personnel, albeit recently refocused on humane education?
At last report, on August 25, 2017, “RedRover Responders stand at the ready to provide emergency animal sheltering assistance to the animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey, if our help is needed and requested,” the organization said. “For a list of currently available animal emergency shelters and resources, visit: redrover.org/HurricaneHelp.”
But RedRover chief executive Nicole Forsythe did give at least one television interview about disaster relief preparation.
Where was American Humane, which likes to claim that it has the oldest animal disaster relief program in the U.S.?
American Humane, as of sundown on August 27, 2017, appeared to have done little more than post photos of how it showed off a disaster relief truck at a vaccination clinic in Walker, Louisiana, with further text apparently copied from media releases issued after the truck was unveiled at the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control & Rescue Center a year after Hurricane Katrina, i.e. in 2006.
The ASPCA, as of sundown on August 27, 2017, had only posted to Facebook one announcement, offering a free downloadable “app” of only tangential relevance to the ongoing crisis.
At that, though, the ASPCA had done more than at least two other organizations, one of them apparently lacking nonprofit status, that had initiated aggressive online fundraising campaigns in the name of helping animals caught up in Hurricane Harvey.
Verify all claims through independent sources before sending money!