By Beth Gammie, RedRover Director of Field Services

On August 25, 2017, the catastrophic storm Hurricane Harvey hit the Middle Texas coast and caused immense damage to the people and the animals of Texas and surrounding states.  RedRover Responders partnered with the SPCA of Texas to care for about 147 pets of evacuees who fled the impacted areas.  We’ll never forget the gratitude of these people — many of whom had lost everything but their beloved pets — for our volunteers’ daily care of their animals.

Thanks to our generous supporters, RedRover is still helping the people and animals of Texas — both to recover from Harvey’s impacts and to help communities get on a better footing for the next round of storms this year.

First, RedRover is supporting transports of shelter cats and dogs from crowded Houston shelters to placement partners in the Midwest.  In a hurricane’s aftermath, it is typical for shelters to see an increase in intake, due to increased owner surrender of animals, and Houston is no exception, with intake numbers still at 25% above normal.  Financial loss and the destruction of housing inevitably results in these heartbreaking separations, especially considering that oftentimes it is difficult for people to find pet-friendly housing again.

Houston PetSet (HPS) is an animal welfare collaborative that supports animal welfare organizations working on the ground to alleviate animal suffering and homelessness.  While HPS usually funds animal welfare groups, this time was different: HPS started their own operations.

Tama Lundquist, HPS Co-President, said, “We saw the rescues and shelters bursting at the seams, and worked with partners to move busloads and planeloads of animals out [to responsible placement partners].  We saw an emergency (Hurricane Harvey) on top of the existing crisis of animal homelessness in Houston.”  RedRover is supporting HPS with two transports of cats and dogs from crowded shelters, helping approximately 300 homeless animals find forever homes and relieving the burden on Houston area shelters and their staff.

Second, RedRover is supporting The Empty Shelter Project’s free large-scale spay/neuter, vaccination and microchip clinics in low-income areas of Houston where there are no veterinary services.  All of these components are essential to help the community be better prepared for the next storm.  Spay/neuter of course means there will be a smaller population of animals potentially impacted by a storm and thus fewer animals needing rescue or transport out.  Microchipping is crucial in reunifying rescued pets with their families.  Vaccinations keep the animals healthier and, should they need evacuation and sheltering, healthier animals are safer to shelter and transport.

The Empty Shelter Project (TESP) sets up MASH-style clinics in areas of Houston and Harris County where they are needed most.  A single clinic can treat 300 to 350 dogs and cats.  Randy Kissling, a founder of The Empty Shelter Project, said, “Not only will RedRover’s grant help hundreds of animals, we see a tremendous value in our clients talking about the benefits of spay and neuter to family and friends in their communities which can go a long way to solving our pet overpopulation problem.” With RedRover’s support, TESP can spay/neuter, vaccinate and microchip an additional 450-500 animals.

Lastly, RedRover is supporting Animal Investigation and Response (AIR) to double their capacity to evacuate animals in disasters through an additional truck and animal transport trailer, as well as increasing their stock of wire cages and transport crates.  AIR is a Texas statewide animal welfare non-profit organization that does disaster animal response and also helps law enforcement investigate animal cruelty cases.  RedRover Responders have worked alongside AIR before in natural disasters and cruelty responses.

Monica Ailey, AIR’s president, said, “Our Transportation Outreach program assists large-scale evacuation of animals in disaster, and we focus strongly on the Texas coastline.  We’re thrilled that with RedRover’s help we’ll be able to rescue and transport even more animals when disaster strikes.”

RedRover Responders put their hearts and souls into helping the animals evacuated from Hurricane Harvey.  Through the generosity of our supporters, we are able to continue helping the communities that need it most by supporting the great work of Houston PetSet, The Empty Shelter Project and Animal Investigation and Response. This means that up to 300 animals will be transported to forever homes, about 425 animals in low-incomes areas of Houston will receive spaying/neutering, vaccinating and microchipping, and twice the number of animals will be evacuated during the next disaster.  Thank you for helping to make this vital work possible!