- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Animal lovers and rescue groups are rushing to help the relief effort in Texas, hoping to make sure four-footed family pets aren’t left behind as the state grapples with Hurricane Harvey.

Donations of money and supplies have poured in to shelters to try to house the influx of animals, while major national groups said they’re sending manpower and equipment to help ease the burden on local groups.

Texans fleeing the flooding, meanwhile, are facing heart-rending decisions about their dogs and cats, as they are forced from homes with little more than their clothes and valuables.

Garrick Long, evacuated his Houston apartment with his wife and two daughters, but was only able to bring his two dogs with him, leaving two cats behind.

“There was just no way we could physically carry them all,” he said. The family decided that their apartment was probably higher than the water would rise, and the cats could climb to get above the water more easily than the dogs could.

As people are deciding whether to comply with evacuation orders, their pets end up being part of the decision.

Some evacuees are keeping their animals with them, while others are taking them to shelters for care, planning to pick them up after the waters recede.

The Texas Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had received 50 pets as of Tuesday afternoon, ranging from dogs to birds to hamsters.

Maura Davies, vice president of communications, said they’ve also been getting donations of supplies and money. She said money is the most useful because it’s flexible, and allows the SPCA to buy what it needs most.

Ms. Davies said they are using different collars and microchips in order to keep the pets separate from the ones up for adoption. They are even photographing some of the pets with their owners for future reference.

Rescue crews are also headed to the region to help animals stranded in the flooding.

“As soon as we can get down there and get on the ground, we plan on getting down there,” said Patty Dawson, president of Dallas Dog Rescue Rehab and Reform.

Ms. Dawson used social media to spread the word about her partner rescue shelter in Houston, which was desperately trying to get dogs to high enough ground for the past two days.

She said when rescuers come to help stranded people, they usually will take families’ pets out too — though she said she was hearing reports of differing policies.

“I’ve heard the federal [rescue] is not taking the pets, but the local people with pets are taking the dogs and even going back for the dogs,” she said of local volunteers.

But one volunteer doing boat rescues, Barrett Zuskind, told The Washington Times he didn’t see pets being treated differently.

“It was hard to just be a part of it seeing people decide what they could live with for the rest of their lives,” said Mr. Zuskind. “We left no pets behind.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is also on the ground doing animal rescues, asking people to contact them through Twitter with addresses of pets that need help. As of Thursday, they were in Port Arthur, a city roughly 90 miles east of Houston.

Jamie Grissom and her fiancé had to swim about half a mile out of their neighborhood once their house began taking on water. They blew up an air mattress and used a one-person kayak to transport their two dogs and cat.

“From my understanding, all the volunteer people were only leaving animals in instances where they were aggressive,” said Ms. Grissom.

She said the aggressive pets were being placed on top of roofs when that was possible to protect them from the rising water.

A joint press release from American Humane and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food warned pets could become aggressive when encountering new stress or dangers. Both organizations are heading to Texas and Louisiana with a 50-foot animal rescue vehicle and 100,000 pounds of pet food.

Shelters that have opened for the human evacuees in the Houston area are generally allowing them to bring their pets as long as the animals are kept in kennels. The George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, the city’s largest shelter, has a separate area for people with pets.

And in Madison, New Jersey, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center is preparing to take in roughly 100 dogs from San Antonio, Texas and help house them across New England.

“Homeless pets awaiting adoption in Texas shelters are being relocated for placement at other organizations in order to free up space to shelter animals displaced by evacuation until they can be reunited, keeping families together,” the center announced on its Facebook page.

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