Meet the people rescuing stranded pets from tropical storm Harvey

A growing army of animal lovers is on the ground in Houston, responding to owners pleas to find their lost dogs and cats

There arent a lot of good moments in the midst of tragedy, but seeing pets reunited with their people is one.

Man, it was just really neat. The dogs just brightened up because their people were there, said Beth Gammie of RedRover, an animal welfare group responding to tropical storm Harvey at the request of the ASPCA of Texas. Gammie is one of a growing army of animal lovers responding to the storm, providing support at a shelter in Dallas designated for evacuee pets.

Harvey is cutting a wide swath across Texas and Louisiana, with particular devastation in the 2.3 million person city of Houston. Some parts of Texas received as much as 50 inches of rain, and the result is widespread flooding and property damage that could hit $190bn. Amongst the many heartbreaking images from Harvey are those of animals dogs stranded in floods, families evacuating with nothing but their clothes and their pets, and desperate pleas for news about lost animals.

Animal rescue groups were worried even before the hurricane made landfall, because the long memory of Katrina still looms large in the minds of those who did rescue work in 2005, where tens of thousands of pets died.

Katrina changed a great deal about how animal evacuees are handled, not least because 44%of those who refused to evacuate did so because they were worried about their pets.

Responding to a resident report, the HSUS animal rescue team returns successfully with two cats trapped in a home. Photograph: Anthony Rathbun/Humane Society of the United States via AP Images

The 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (Pets) Act created a better framework for handling animal rescues, including a high degree of coordination between national rescue groups and local partners. Nicole Forsyth, RedRovers CEO, explained that groups have to be invited by state and local agencies seeking aid, and they coordinate together to dispatch trained personnel for high water rescues, sheltering services, and veterinary care.

Katie Jarl, the Texas senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), says shelters were evacuated in advance of the storm. At the same time, a mass transport campaign was swinging into action, moving adoptable animals out of Texas shelters to locations as far flung as New Jersey and Oregon.


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