Like many people across the country, we watched the heartbreaking news footage of Hurricane Harvey earlier this year. We immediately knew we had to act to help pets affected by the devastation. We deployed an experienced team to the region to assist in the evacuation of animals. Our team wore many hats during this time and were stationed both outside of Houston, Texas to help with on-the-ground rescue work and in Austin, Texas at temporary emergency shelters. In Austin, team members triaged cats coming in from Houston for treatment, assisted volunteer vets at the medical centers, cleaned cages, sorted through donations, provided socialization to over 100 cats and sorted through the mountains of donated supplies shelters had already received.
Outside of Houston, our team paddle boarded through the devastation to rescue pets left behind. During one of these rescues, we saved four cats and a dog who were left in a flooded house alone for nine days. We found their guardian and reunited this family. Watching his face light up upon seeing his pets was truly a humbling experience for our team and reminded us why this work is so important.
Shelters were in desperate need of space and we worked to transfer 24 cats into our care. These cats were living in shelters before the hurricane. By taking these cats in, we freed up space in the shelters for cats affected by the hurricane. We found homes for two of the cats in Austin, Texas and five cats were relocated to our Los Angeles location. In total, 17 cats were brought back to ACR headquarters in Brentwood, Maryland. The team organized the transport of the cats including providing all supplies, food and carriers for these cats. The cats were named after towns in Texas such as Austin, Amarillo and Idalou. The work didn’t end when the team returned to Maryland though. Some of the cats needed extra care, such as Amarillo, who staff members nursed back to health. He went from a weak kitten to an outgoing and rambunctious personality. Today, all of our Hurricane Harvey cats have found forever homes! It has been an amazing experience to see these cats transform after a traumatizing situation and know they are now in loving homes.
Although Hurricane Harvey was a tragic and heartbreaking experience, the ACR team was inspired by the brave people and cats we met on this mission. Disaster relief is an important part of ACR’s mission to protect cats throughout the country. Thankfully, assisting pets during natural disasters has become easier after the events of Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina illustrated how powerful the bond between humans and their pets can be. Victims of the hurricane were told they could not bring their beloved pets with them to disaster relief shelters. Many pet guardians refused to leave their pets behind and stayed outside, resulting in potential death. A poll from the Fritz Institute found 44% of people who chose not to evacuate during Hurricane Katrina did so because they did not want to leave their pets behind. Katrina led to the passage of a law, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency authority to provide rescue, care and shelter to animals affected by natural disasters. Our team in Houston saw the effects of this and participated in coordinated efforts to protect our non-human friends affected by the hurricane. Please continue to support ACR so we can stay involved in rescue missions firsthand.