International Fund for Animal Welfare founder reaches out from semi-retirement
HOUSTON, Texas––Five days into the Hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Harvey crisis, the largest transfer of funds to local animal relief announced by outside organizations remains the $49,562 sent to the Houston SPCA in two installments by Brian Davies of the Network for Animals.
Other outside organizations have made commitments of personnel, supplies, and equipment of greater cash value, but what local animal charities in the disaster zone will need most during the next weeks and months of recovery effort is funding.
Local animal charities throughout southeastern Texas, western Louisiana, and as far north as the lower Ohio Valley will urgently need money not only to finance their ongoing disaster rescue work, but also to replace funding for routine operations usually provided by donors and businesses who are themselves caught up in the crisis.
The $49,562 donated by Network for Animals will not go far toward meeting millions of dollars worth of need. The San Antonio Humane Society alone reported spending more than $36,000 on disaster relief efforts in the first five days of the crisis, including “housing 79 pets from evacuee families forced to flee their homes, strays, and transferred shelter pets from the Gulf Coast saved from the inclement weather.”
But the Network for Animals contribution is a challenge to other animal charities from outside the disaster area to ante up.
Many organizations and some entities with no evident nonprofit status or history of helping animals after disasters are aggressively fundraising in the name of helping animal victims of Harvey. Some have yet to designate any recipients of donations of upward of $125,000 raised through social media. Another, among the first to get appeals online, claimed to have divided $550 among three animal rescue organizations in the Houston area.
How we helped
The Network for Animals donations were made with impromptu assists from ANIMALS 24-7 and our top banner advertiser, Paul Seigel of Direct Mail Systems Inc.
Brian Davies, who founded and directed the International Fund for Animal Welfare for 29 years, started the Network for Animals after retiring from IFAW in 1997. Seigel, after working for Davies at IFAW, and helping Jill Robinson to start and spin off the Animals Asia Foundation, which originated as an IFAW project, became a fundraising consultant for many other animal charities.
When Davies saw the Harvey catastrophe developing, he asked Seigel how Network for Animals could help. Seigel, after repeated efforts to reach animal charities in the disaster area himself, contacted ANIMALS 24-7 early on August 26, 2017.
Why we recommended the Houston SPCA
Our role is reporting the news, not raising funds or directing donations on behalf of other organizations. Yet helping donors to quickly and accurately identify the animal charities best positioned to make use of help is a part of reporting on the animal news beat.
ANIMALS 24-7 took several criteria into account before introducing Seigel and Davies to the Houston SPCA:
- What organizations were already on the scene, with the trained staff and infrastructure to accommodate large numbers of animals on short notice?
- What organizations on the scene had the most experience in coping with disasters of a comparable nature and magnitude?
- What organizations on the scene had the facilities and skills to help not only dogs and cats, but also horses, livestock, and injured or displaced wildlife?
- What organizations on the scene were likely to be most in need of help, not just immediately but over the next several months?
Weather maps & track records
A quick look at weather maps showed that as devastated as was the Texas coast on the morning of August 26, 2017, from Corpus Christi to Galveston, the 6.5 million human residents of the Houston metropolitan area, along with their dogs, cats, horses, and urban wildlife were likely to bear the brunt of Harvey––and were likely to remain flooded for weeks, given that there is no high ground in Houston, and indeed are few buildings taller than highway overpasses, while much of the region has limited drainage.
Familiar with most of the major animal care organizations along the projected path of Harvey, and having seen them at work first-hand during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ANIMALS 24-7 took further into consideration that while many Houston-area animal charities have had outstanding records, including in disaster relief, the Houston SPCA coordinated the most volunteers, handled the most animals, and appeared to work most comfortably with hundreds of other organizations, of all sizes, during Katrina and more recent flooding.
Houston SPCA executive director Patti Mercer, who led the Katrina response, is still in charge.
We put Mercer in touch with Seigel, Seigel made the connection to Davies, and Davies wired $5,000 to the Houston SPCA immediately, pledging more would follow as soon as he could raise it––as was done.
Said Seigel, “Network for Animals is proud to have been among the first to get funds into the area. Since then, Network for Animals has sent a series of three appeals. [As of August 30, 2017] 1,646 donations have been received, totaling $49,562. Today, Network for Animals is even more proud to be able to report to its donors that another check is being sent to the Houston SPCA for food, medicine and other critical needs, and for them to distribute as needed to reputable small groups helping animals in the disaster zone. This check will be in the amount of $44,562.
“Every single cent raised is being used for the exact purpose intended,” Seigel added. “No overheads. No nothing.”
HSUS deploys south of Houston
Among the major national animal charities raising funds for Harvey relief work, the Humane Society of the U.S. appeared to be the first to field rescue workers in the disaster area.
“Upon our arrival in Texas City,” reported HSUS response leader Sara Varsa, “we learned that the most urgent needs were in Dickinson and League City,” south of Houston, “where our help was requested by officials. My team is conducting animal search and rescue missions with Dickinson Animal Control. We are responding in flooded areas where roads remain impassible to rescue pets from their deluged homes.
“The flooding is so severe,” Varsa posted to Facebook on August 29, 2017, “that road closures will have our team marooned in place until some flooding subsides. But we have purchased food and crates to temporarily house animals who are rescued from the field—and we’ll ensure they have a soft and warm place to rest. We’re also transporting animals who were available for adoption before the storm in San Antonio to other states to make room for displaced pets.”
Legendary veteran HSUS disaster coordinator Dave Pauli, who has led the HSUS responses to many major disasters since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was directing a rescue project in Puerto Rico when Harvey hit. Pauli flew to the scene in Texas as quickly as possible, but this time as a team member at the HSUS Black Beauty Ranch sanctuary, serving as the base of HSUS operations, not as the field boss.
“I have been getting some amazing offers from well-qualified people who would like to join my team in Texas,” Pauli posted. “And if I were authorized to build my own response team, it would be a good one. But I am going as part of our Animal Rescue Team and as of now, HSUS and most other national orgs are not deploying volunteer rescuers. Texas is rightfully being restrictive on having [only] certified swift water rescue and technical animal rescue responders [come from outside] initially. Some state associations are sponsoring groups, but I am not in the loop of their requirements or response protocols. If I hear of opportunities I will post them in the next few days.”
Oregon Humane Socety sends four
Second among major outside animal charities to put boots on the ground to help in Texas may have been the Oregon Humane Society, who initially sent two staff members and two volunteers.
This advance team, arriving on August 30, 2017, “is expected to be the first of multiple OHS teams traveling to Texas to provide assistance,” said Oregon Humane Society executive director Sharon Harmon.
“Our team members, who are certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and experienced in the day-to-day operation of emergency shelters, will be assisting with caring for animals at a facility located in the Houston area,” set up by the Houston SPCA.
“The first team will work at this facility for seven days,” Harmon said, after which those people will be rotated out of the field and others sent, as needed.
American Humane sends two 50-foot rigs
Also arriving on August 30, 2017 were response teams from the Best Friends Animal Society and the American Humane Association.
American Humane sent “two of our giant 50-foot emergency vehicles. Our Louisiana rescue truck is arriving in the Houston metro area to help shelter displaced dogs, cats and horses,” American Humane said. “Our Oklahoma rescue vehicle is deploying to Orange Grove near Corpus Christi, where the killer storm made landfall, to distribute more than 100,000 pounds of free food with the generous help of Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food. “
American Humane said it had received $20,000 from former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills staff Adrienne Maloof, and that the Compassion-First Pet Hospitals chain had “generously offered to match every gift [to AHA], dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000.”
Best Friends helps Austin Pets Alive
The Best Friends Animal Society team deployed to Austin, where Austin Pets Alive “saved 400 dogs and cats from flood-affected areas in Texas,” posted volunteer Ryan Clinton, with “more on their way.”
“We are expecting several hundred more displaced pets today and this week,” Austin Pets Alive affirmed on August 30, 2017, after setting up an emergency satellite shelter in a warehouse to accommodate the overflow.
“Later this week, our RedRover Responders team and volunteers will deploy to Dallas, Texas,” RedRover chief executive Nicole Forsythe e-mailed to ANIMALS 24-7. “The SPCA of Texas contacted RedRover to request support during this emergency.”
“Over the next week or longer, I’ll be on the ground leading our RedRover Responders volunteers,” said RedRover director of field services Beth Gammie.
The RedRover team includes “more than 3,800 trained volunteers in the United States and Canada,” Gammie said, who have helped during more than 180 disasters since 1987, when the late Belton Mouras, a native of the Texas/Lousiana region hit by Harvey, founded the organization as United Animal Nations.
(See Animal rights movement pioneer Belton Mouras, 90.)
Small struggling locals
Working closely with the SPCA of Texas from the beginning of the Harvey disaster, the Operation Kindness Pet Food Pantry helped to feed the pets of displaced persons and “took in 23 adoptable cats from the SPCA of Texas’ Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center,” the SPCA of Texas posted, “to help us make room for more pets of evacuees. These are cats we took in from The Cattery Cat Shelter in Corpus Christi.”
Still struggling to accommodate incoming animals, the SPCA Sandra Sue Bensen Adoption Center in Aransas Pass waived all adoption fees to try to rehome some of the animals in the wake of Harvey, “and is coordinating with the San Antonio Humane Society to save the furry South Texans,” reported the Coastal Bend Chronicle.
“Our adoption center really needs help,” the SPCA Sandra Sue Bensen Adoption Center posted to Facebook. “With so many animals dumped off and Aransas Pass having NO utilities whatsoever, we have many animals in a very bad environment.”
Ironically, Harvey hit SPCA Sandra Sue Bensen Adoption Center on “our first birthday in our building,” the Facebook post noted.
ASPCA offers webinars
Meanwhile the American SPCA, the fourth wealthiest humane society in the world, as of August 30, 2017 appeared to have done little more than to post an announcement that “National Preparedness Month Is Here—Get Ready for Unexpected Disasters.”
Explained the posting, “September is a time when many parts of the country are coping with natural disasters. We can help with webinars on how to respond.”
Texas A&M helps horses
The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine took the lead in large animal rescue, beginning by rounding up two horses on August 27, 2017 who had been stranded in high water near College Station.
“Two separate emergency groups from the veterinary school made their way down to the southeastern part of the state to assist with animals who may have been trapped or hurt during the storm,” Texas A&M faculty member Leslie Easterwood, DVM told media.
The first Texas A&M team headed to the San Patricio and Port Aransas areas at either end of Padre Island National Seashore. The second went to Fort Bend County.
Both teams, Easterwood said, “will be helping and aiding Texas (FEMA) Task Force 1 and their search dogs, and will also be taking in any refugee animals that come in with or without owners.
Missed “the call” but met her calling
“I missed the activation call, as I had no signal that day,” Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine faculty member Tam Garland told ANIMALS 24-7. But Garland, a longtime Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) large animal diseases moderator, was already “in a rural part of Texas treating animals for exposure, malnutrition, likely ingestion of sewage-filled water, etc.,” she said, “so I was not activated but am working at saving lives.”
Added the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital via Facebook, “The Texas Animal Health Commission has set up a Harvey Hotline at the Animal Response Operation Coordination Center (AROCC). If you or someone you know is looking to volunteer or make a donation; wanting to offer shelter for animals; or needing to report live or dead animals, please call the hotline at 512-719-0799.”
Katrina veteran becomes a vet, helps in Humble
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital page on Facebook also offered special notice of Robin Jones, DVM, who “graduated as an Aggie veterinarian just last year. Now she’s helping hundreds of evacuees & their animals at the Humble Civic Center & Arena Complex,” in Humble, Texas, just north of Houston.
“Her family lost their home during Hurricane Katrina,” the posting said. “Fortunately, her new home did not flood during Harvey. So, now she’s donating her time to help her community.”
(More updates from animal care organizations will be posted as rapidly as ANIMALS 24-7 can verify and distill the information.)
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