How far north will torrential rains and flooding be felt?
HOUSTON, TEXAS––Having scourged the length of the Texas coast, inundating more than a third of Houston, soaking western Louisiana as well, Hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Harvey is expected to drench Tennessee next, from Memphis to Nashville, before blowing out over Washington D.C. over the Labor Day weekend.
The Nashville Humane Association and other Tennessee animal charities, having prepared to receive animals displaced from Texas shelters, and to send aid south, may be coping with flooding in their own communities before the weekend is over.
Louisiana animal charities prepare
Most of the water dropped by Harvey will flow down the swollen Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.
The Louisiana SPCA, Jefferson SPCA, Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society, St. Bernard Animal Shelter and Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge have already been evacuating animals to shelters outside the potential flood zone for several days.
This was initially to make room for animals from Texas, but is now also to be prepared for local displacements.
So what are the big national animal charities doing?
“Meet my $50,000 and raise me”
“Meet my $50,000 and raise me,” challenged Network for Animals founder Brian Davies, 82, after routing $49,562 to the Houston SPCA in the first days of the Hurricane Harvey disaster and sending representative Paul Seigel to the scene.
The North Shore Animal League America, of Port Washington, New York, jumped on the challenge, quickly raising $10,942 for Harvey relief via Facebook.
Robots speak for IFAW
But the first organization Davies founded, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, with annual revenue of $25 million and $55 million in assets, on August 31, 2017 shocked would-be donors by announcing via robotic e-mail that “IFAW-US offices are currently closed for the Labor Day Holiday, and will re-open Tuesday, September 5th at 9:00 AM, Eastern Time.”
The holiday weekend would not actually begin for another two days.
The robotic IFAW response did suggest that, “If you are calling to report an animal impacted by Hurricane Harvey that needs rescue, please call Texas Animal Health Commission at 512-719-0777 who is coordinating all rescues.”
The IFAW web site and social media continued soliciting funds in the name of animal relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Performance has precedent
The IFAW performance reminded of the IFAW response after the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when IFAW representative Anand Ramanathan for more than a month issued purported field reports that were taken verbatim without attribution from other sources, before actually leaving his office in Massachusetts to visit the disaster area.
Worst, Ramanathan on January 1, 2005 described the purported IFAW evacuation of a zoo in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, causing others to bypass the abandoned site. Only seven of the zoo animals were still alive when Pro Fauna Indonesia arrived, looking for street dogs and feral cats in need of help, on February 7, 2005.
Brian Davies had nothing to do with that, having retired from IFAW in 1997. Both Ramanathan and Fred O’Regan, who succeeded Davies and was then IFAW chief executive, are long gone from IFAW and from any visible roles in either actual or fictitious disaster response.
Some IFAW personnel are working
And this time some IFAW-funded personnel are actually in the field, led by disaster response team manager Shannon Walajtys.
The IFAW presence was confirmed by Code 3 Associates and the Best Friends Animal Society.
“Our first mission to support the Houston SPCA at the request of Code 3 Associates,” a nonprofit organization specializing in animal relief after disasters, “was to rescue an elderly dog named Diesel who was unable to climb the stairs and surrounded by flood waters,” an IFAW representative posted to Facebook.
ASPCA arrives in Gavelston
The American SPCA, also conspicuously unseen during the first week of the Harvey crisis, “is currently working with local shelters to manage the transport and relocation of more than 120 homeless animals from the Galveston County Animal Resource Center to shelters in Austin and Dallas,” according to an August 31, 2017 Facebook posting.
“RedRover Responders are on the ground in Dallas, assisting the SPCA of Texas with emergency sheltering and care of animals,” RedRover announced, likewise on August 31, 2017.
While news media repeatedly spotlighted dramatic dog and horse rescues from high water, relatively little was said about cats, occasioning anxious inquiries to ANIMALS 24-7 as to whether cats are getting any help at all.
Responded Alley Cat Allies, “We’ve been working tirelessly with local organizations to identify and provide needed supplies to support cat colonies, and give emergency funds to overwhelmed shelters and groups helping with rescue efforts. We’ve also provided the Humane Society of Louisiana with two disaster-ready transportation vehicles that are facilitating the rescue of hundreds of animals affected by the rising flood waters.”
Alley Cat Rescue deployed two experienced volunteers, founder Louise Holton’s daughter Desiree and her husband Robin Stapley, to be followed by Hurricane Katrina veteran Myun Park and her partner.
Meanwhile in Houston
“Our friends from the Austin Humane Society and SPCA of Texas are here,” acknowledged the Houston SPCA, “transporting our adoptable pets to other shelters. The Oregon Humane Society and San Diego Humane Society are helping out, too.”
Across the flooded city, the Houston Humane Society lauded MuttNation Foundation, formed by “new country”-western singer Miranda Lambert, for evacuating 62 dogs.
Shelters as far away as the Seattle/King County Humane Society announced receipt of evacuated dogs.
Citizens for Animal Protection, the third major humane society serving Houston, located within a few blocks of the overflowing Barker Reservoir, acknowledged “Keeping an eye on the levee situation. Luckily CAP is on a ridge,” the organization posted, “which should keep us elevated enough to be spared.”
CAPS contributed to the animal relief operations by managing a temporary shelter at the Berry Center, partnering with the Harris County Constable’s Office.
Three hours west, San Antonio Animal Care Services maintained an emergency pet shelter at the Joe Freeman Coliseum.
Dozens of other humane societies and animal control agencies likewise arranged temporary accommodations for displaced pets, typically in partnership with FEMA-accredited shelters for displaced humans, which are required by federal law to make arrangements for pets.
While temporary animal shelters are set up as needed, displaced pets are most often housed in animal charities’ permanent shelters, after the charities transfer to others the animals who were already impounded when Harvey hit.
Port Arthur Animal Control director Anthony Mitchell thanked his lucky stars that his agency had just rehomed 19 dogs at a Clear the Shelters promotion 10 days before Harvey hit, better enabling the small shelter to cope.
Many other animal aid organizations and individual volunteers are assisting with animal care at the temporary shelters. Field rescue and transport, however, are restricted to FEMA-accredited personnel, to avoid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of animals who were missed by their families were parceled out all over the U.S. and even to parts of Canada, without coordination, accountability, or adequate efforts made in many instances to get the animals back home.
Evacuated dogfighters’ kennel?
Unfortunately, not all of the Harvey rescues may have been quite what they seemed to be at first, Chambers County, Texas sheriff Brian C. Hawthorne posted to Facebook on August 28, 2017, after sheriff’s deputies and volunteers evacuated 31 dogs from a kennel initially identified to them as a pit bull rescue.
The kennel owner, Hawthorne said, “was evacuated on the last trip the airboat made in to the property. At that time he stated no other animals needed to be rescued.”
The kennel owner’s partner, however, posted that more dogs needed to be rescued, reportedly offering a reward of $3,000 to anyone who could get them.
Returning to the scene, “Sheriff’s Office detectives assisting in the rescue identified what appeared to be numerous fighting dogs,” Hawthorne said, and observed that the kennel owner “appeared to care more about receiving PayPal donations than about [either] the dogs or imperiled neighbors, waiting to be rescued.”