Here's What You Can Do To Help Pets Displaced By Hurricane Harvey

By Travis Greenwood

Since it first made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi on Friday night, Hurricane Harvey has pounded the Gulf Coast and its surrounding areas with more than 50 inches of rainfall, a total the National Weather Service called "unprecedented" in a tweet published over the weekend.

Millions of Texans have been caught in the crosshairs of this deadly storm, which so far has claimed five lives and injured countless others.

The problems have been particularly dire in Houston, where no order to evacuate was given.

As floodwaters surged over the weekend, people retreated to higher floors and then rooftops to stay dry. Many desperate survivors owe their lives to emergency responders with the Coast Guard and the National Guard, both of whom mobilized helicopters and boats to rescue families trapped on precarious perches by the rising waters.

Less reported on, however, has been the plight of pets impacted by the hurricane, a huge number of which have been separated from their humans.

A stunning image shared by Ed Lavandera, a correspondent with CNN, on Instagram hinted at just how much destruction Harvey left in its wake: A pair of pups huddling together in a boat ebbing with the tide when their humans in Dickinson, a suburb located about 45 miles southeast of Houston, were forced to flee under unknown circumstances.

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While the fate of these particular good boys remains unknown, Lavandera noted in an update that "food was left behind and I suspect it had to be a tough choice and that they will come back for them as soon as they can."

Meanwhile, animal welfare organizations and shelters, both in and out of the state, are scrambling to help — and they're using hashtags like #HurricaneHarveypets and #Harveypets to raise money, rally and recruit volunteers, crowdsource needed items like food, leashes, and cat litter, foster displaced animals, and, most importantly, reconnect these stressed and scared pets with their owners.

One of the more high profile initiatives is being led by Austin Pets Alive!, which, in an email shared with ABC News, revealed that it had ferried more than 1100 cats and dogs north to its no-kill shelter in the state's capital.

Hurricane Harvey

Austin, we can't thank this community enough for coming through for these animals during Hurricane Harvey! Because of supporters near and far, we've actually been able to cross some items completely off of our needs list! As we had transports coming in as late as 1am, we now have a list of updated needs (including funding, foster, in-kind donations, volunteers) on our website here: https://www.austinpetsalive.org/hurricane-harvey-evacuations/ This has been updated as of this morning and is the best place to answer any questions you may have! We are expecting a very busy day at the shelter today so your patience is appreciated. HUGE shout out to our APA! volunteers and staff who are going above and beyond to save all these animals this weekend. We couldn't do it without you! **UPDATE** - We have no small dogs or puppies left that need fostering. We do have 61 larger dogs who need adult-only homes with little traffic (ie, no other animals, children or really active households) - Biggest cat foster needs are for kitties with ringworm or Feline Leukemia - Top Donations we currently need include: liquid laundry soap; leashes + martingale collars (all sizes); cat litter; funding. We are quickly running out of space, so financial donations are hugely helpful in allowing us to purchase the supplies we need, as we need them! Additional items and information can be found on the website!

Posted by Austin Pets Alive! on Saturday, August 26, 2017

The group thanked the public for a dramatic spike in donations while reminding everyone that the effects of the storm would linger on for months to come and that the real work was just beginning:

"As we continue to care for the animals we have already saved, we have to prepare for even more animals who will need us in the coming days. We've been receiving reports from shelter partners in areas hit hardest by the hurricane and areas expecting the most flooding that over the course of the next 24-72 hours, they are anticipating another significant influx of animals that they may not be able to help. We have also heard reports of extensive lines of people surrendering their pets, so Austin Pets Alive! needs to be ready to help and brace ourselves for additional animal intake.

For APA!, the repercussions of this hurricane will last for weeks, if not months."

In a related development, the city of Houston opened the doors of its largest convention center to all refugees — including those of the four-legged variety.

"Pets are welcome and will be placed with their owners in a designated area," the building's representatives announced yesterday on Twitter.

And in instances where shelter spaces are human-only, local animal shelters are stepping in to fill the void.

According to experts, options for animal rescues during natural disasters are much more "robust" than they were during the post-Katrina evacuation when no formal plans or protocols were in place.

In an interview with ABC News, Ana Zorrilla, the CEO of the Louisiana SPCA, had this to say:

"There was no legislation on the state or federal level for the protection of pets. Now FEMA has very specific guidelines including pets in evacuation plans and response plans ... There's been a lot of work done to ensure Katrina doesn't happen again."

"One big change moving forward is that animal rescuers are included with human rescue teams ... When they go in as the floodwaters are rising, rescuers are there to take the people in addition to the animals," a development she described as "huge" and life-saving.

If you've lost or found a dog, authorities say the first step is the same: making flyers, putting them up around your neighborhood (when safe!), and contacting any and all local shelters. Photos and adoption papers, they note, can remove some of the logistical headaches, especially if your pet is microchipped.

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If you live outside of Texas and would like to contribute to disaster relief efforts, the following organizations come recommended for their work with animals.

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