Animal rescuers and shelters are overwhelmed right now with thousands of animals found after Hurricane Harvey, many were saved from flood waters. Every community and shelter is handling how they will deal with stray pets brought in after the storm differently.
Many rescuers are concerned some shelters may not hold animals long enough to give their owners a chance to find them. They worry some people's pets may be given up for adoption, offered to rescue groups, or euthanized if they are unclaimed.
Watchdog Mary is surveying shelters and updating information as it becomes available. Here's what we know so far:
Corpus Christi Animal Care Services is posting animals picked up during the storm on its Facebook page.
Captain William Broyles, who runs the municipal shelter, issued a "10 day stray hold" on animals who came to the shelter between August 26-29th. The city is calling this the "hurricane period" and will return to the "normal" 3-5 day stray hold period after the 29th. The city will not charge owners who lost a pet during that time to pick up their dog or cat. If anyone picked up their animal and was charged, the city will issue them a refund.
Fort Bend Animal Control is flooded with animals. The shelter says not all the pets are posted on their Facebook page.
Their social media post says if you lost a dog or cat, you should come to the shelter to look for them. The shelter is adopting out dogs and cats after a short stray hold time in some cases. In other cases animals are getting about 10 days to be reclaimed by their owners. The shelter was filling up with floodwater at one point last week and many dogs were transported to Austin Pets Alive as an emergency measure.
AUSTIN PETS ALIVE
Austin Pets Alive was one of the first groups to move in to help hundreds of animals after the storm from multiple areas. This is what a spokesperson told Watchdog Mary the system is so far, and it's still evolving:
- All of the dogs and cats recovered from the floods earlier this week that went to Austin via Austin Pets Alive, are NOT being adopted out, or transferred to rescues. They are being held in Austin to see if they can be reunited with their owners. APA had to send them to Austin from the Katy command center because earlier in the week that was the safest place for them to go.
- Animals rescued from floodwaters mid and late week are now being held at the Best Friends Animal Society TEMPORARY shelter in Conroe at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. There are about 1200 animals there being held and will hopefully be reunited with their owners.
- Austin Pets Alive is working with Best Friends, Harris County Animal Control and other groups to set up an "official lost and found animal database." It will serve as a way to reunite lost pets with their owners. If a dog or cat went to Austin, and their owner is found in Houston, the pet will be brought back to Houston. They will let me know when that is up and running.
- Currently Austin Pets Alive is ONLY adopting out or transferring animals to rescue groups dogs and cats that were already in their shelter system before the hurricane or confirmed owner surrenders.
Watchdog Mary spoke with a spokesperson from Harris County who said they are still working out a policy and system for animals picked up after the hurricane from flooded out communities.
Here's the statement from Harris County:
"We're bringing in the animals and taking care of them. They are in the shelter. We are trying to figure out how long we can keep them. We are sensitive to people's concerns, they have lost their pets in the tragic situation. We are taking care of them the best we can.
Our website is constantly being updated with animals who come to our shelter. We don't have a clear answer about hold times. We are trying to find a concrete answer to your question and as soon as we do we will call you back."
The Harris County Facebook page says:
There have been several posts stating that the Harris County Animal Shelter euthanized a large number of animals to make room for the influx of animals expected after the floods subside. This information is absolutely false. We have been working with several fantastic groups including MuttNation Foundation, Humane Society of Tulsa, K-9 Angels, Houston Pet Set, Animal Defense League of Texas, Austin Pets Alive, Houston Pets Alive, and other local rescue groups who pulled almost all of the animals that were in our shelter prior to the storm. The HCAS has NOT euthanized a single animal in response to the storm. Please help us to curb these false rumors by not reposting them and correcting the information whenever you see it.
If you lost a pet in or near Harris County you may want to check with the rescue groups listed above.
The Houston SPCA is also taking in animals found in floodwaters. There were multiple social media reports claiming the organization was euthanizing animals.
In this video interview the Houston SPCA says:
- Animals recovered from the flood will be held locally for 30 days and will not be put up for adoption or given to rescue groups.
- Animal are only being euthanized if they are so ill, or so sick and suffering they cannot be saved.
On its Facebook page the Houston SPCA says:
The Houston SPCA has been the subject of a vicious and false rumor that claims that we are euthanizing the very animals we are currently rescuing. This is unequivocally false. Our teams on are on the ground working tirelessly to rescue, care for and reunite owners displaced by this catastrophe.
The mission of the Houston SPCA remains unchanged since 1924: to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation.
We all have come together as a community to save countless lives as Harvey’s aftermath continues to plague parts of our city and surrounding areas. We are on the ground, and in boats, searching and rescuing for all animals who are in need, caring for them by our team of vets and working towards reuniting them.
Veterinarians throughout Texas will be working with us to foster the thousands of storm victims we anticipate rescuing and bringing to the Houston SPCA.
Today, we announced a partnership with FindingRover.com and Petco Foundation that will help connect Harvey storm victims with their pets through facial recognition technology.
Best Friends Animal Society wrote a blog post saying the organization is concerned how the Houston SPCA will handle the situation.
Houston Pets Alive also offers these tips if your pet is lost after the hurricane.
BEAUMONT ANIMAL CONTROL
The city of Beaumont issued this statement on their website:
"The Beaumont Animal Services Team is currently conducting rescue operations on animals who were left in areas that have been effected by flooding. We have been notified that there are many rumors circulating about animals being euthanized and we want to assure the public that this is NOT happening at B.A.S. The City of Beaumont Animal Services is partnering with Humane Society United States to rescue animals and get them to our shelter located at 1884 Pine Street.
Currently we have rescued 95 animals as a result of Harvey rains & flooding and 5 of those animals have been reunited with their owners. Prior to the storm, we transported 67 animals to partner shelters to make room for any animals that may be rescued as a result of the storm.
Any questions regarding Animal Services should be directed to Matthew Fortenberry (Division Manager) or Susan Tony (Adoption Center Supervisor) at 409-838-3304."
Microchips are key to trying to identify lost and found cats and dogs. If someone lost a pet they should immediately call the microchip company and make sure their contact information is up to date.
Dawn Ladny is a microchip tracer for Lost Dogs of Texas. She tells Watchdog Mary chips are the best way to identify your lost pet, especially after a hurricane. "Placing a collar and ID tags on your pet is one way for them to get back home if they are ever lost. But what happens when that collar or tags fall off; and often times, they do," said Ladny. "A microchip is a small electronic device that is implanted below the surface of the skin. When passed over with a scanner, the microchip number is displayed on the scanner's viewing screen. The finder can then call the microchip company to be put in touch with the owner."
Ladny has worked on cases where a microchip has been a critical piece of evidence. "Pets lost or stolen years earlier have been reunited with their owners," said Ladny. "Stolen ten years earlier is the longest I've been involved in with tracking down owners through three marriages and multiple address changes. Your pet depends on you to keep him safe. Microchipping and registering that chip is the best way to ensure they make it back home to you if they are ever lost."
Making sure that microchip is always updated with your contact information ensures your pet does not turn up with a "dead end chip." Dead end chips are what happens when rescuer's scan an animal's chip and the owner's number is disconnected, or they moved from the last registered address. "It does absolutely no good to microchip your pet if you don't register the microchip. That would be like putting a blank luggage tag on your suitcase. Some microchip companies charge an annual fee to keep your pet registered, but there are some free ones out there, such as the non-profit Michelson Foundation who runs foundanimals.org," said Ladny.
Lost Dogs of Texas also has this information if you are trying to find a lost pet.
If you lost a dog or cat be sure to check surrounding city and county animal control departments and area shelters. Sometimes dogs or cats wander into other communities and with the flood waters they could have been carried miles away from where they were lost.
If you're reading this article and your pet is not microchipped, go out and get them chipped ASAP. Microchips are available from your veterinarian or vaccine clinic; usually for less than $30.
This article will be updated as new information becomes available.