What’s happening in Texas is a singular, destructive, and perilous moment for the state’s human residents. That’s true for the animals, too. The HSUS is there, on the ground, committed to helping all the victims, especially the animals, because that is our special charge.
By mid-day Sunday, the combination of Hurricane Harvey and the tropical storm it morphed into had dumped nine trillion gallons of water on Houston and other parts of Southeast Texas. Forecasters have captured our attention with multi-colored satellite images showing bands of rain still pelting the region, with predictions of 50 inches of precipitation falling in certain areas. This is too much for any region, and especially for a flood-prone region like southeast Texas, and for Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city.
This volume of water has nowhere to go but up, and it’s flooding homes and trapping people and their pets. It’s putting confused and nervous animals in life-threatening situations. Cattle and horses in pastures are at risk, and ranchers and others are trying to drive them to higher ground. The effects on wildlife are almost impossible to measure.
The images of despair and rescue on social media and on television remind us how our lives are bound up with animals. People are leaving behind their material possessions but carrying their dogs on their shoulders, in their arms, or in crates or carriers. Unlike during Katrina, first responders understand the power of the human-animal bond, and know that saving the animals is part of their responsibility now, too. Many Good Samaritans are reminding people that they are especially on the lookout for animals as they go house to house in small boats, looking for individuals in crisis.
After Hurricane Katrina, The HSUS upgraded its disaster response capability, noting that enormous weather events require an organization with the ability to meet the challenge. The effects of this long-running weather event stretch over 50 counties, and no single organization can handle anything on this scale. That’s why we are partnering with local and national groups to respond, and we are doing the same with local and state government authorities to make sure that the animals are not cast aside in this crisis.
We are working to transport 200 animals from San Antonio, to create more space for animals coming from the battered and deluged areas. We are also working with the Houston Humane Society and other local groups to relieve the pressure on overcrowded shelters. We’ll be bringing animals, with partners like Wings of Rescue and GreaterGood.org, to states as far off as Washington and New Jersey. And we’ll rely on our friends nearby, especially in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Mind you, we worked well in advance of the storm making landfall to evacuate animals from the impact area, and we worked with our friends at the SPCA of Texas in Dallas to handle large shipments of animals to keep them out of harm’s way.
The town of Texas City, which is between Galveston and Houston, has also been affected by the torrential rain, and our team is there now. We’ll be doing whatever is necessary, whether it’s supporting established emergency shelters or going door to door to conduct rescues. We’ll be working with other communities as need be, with similar agreements.
Remember, we are not even 72 hours into this storm. At this stage during Katrina, we had no idea that the animal rescue would stretch on for seven weeks — a race against time in an evacuated city, also flooded to a remarkable degree. Who knows what this crisis will bring, and how long it will endure? But we’ll do our best to meet whatever it throws at people and animals. We are deploying so many of our assets to respond, in order to help the people and the animals of Texas. We’re committing to see this crisis through, no matter how long the road to recovery, and we hope you’ll be there for us every step of the way.