If you’ve paid attention to the news or our social media since Hurricane Harvey hit, you’re likely aware of some of the awe-inspiring actions from shelters, rescue organizations and volunteers in the affected areas.
After assessing the needs and committing $1 million to support those helping the animals, we sent a few of our own Maddie’s Fund® team members to aid some of the groups who have worked tirelessly since the storm made landfall. They’ve been sending real-time photos and inspiring updates, and we wanted to share them with you.
“We’re simply in awe of the lifesaving work being done for the animals,” said Lisa Ward, Co-Director of Education at Maddie’s Fund, who is on the ground in Houston. “Honestly, Houston is extremely large and there are too many organizations aiding in these efforts to name them all… but from what we’ve personally seen from Austin Pets Alive!, Best Friends Animal Society, BARC, Houston PetSet, Pets4Life and more – amazing things can happen as a result of collaboration.”
The Maddie’s Fund team started out over Labor Day weekend by joining the team from Austin Pets Alive! (APA!), who had set up an emergency transition field center at Katy Mills Mall parking lot. (They have since moved locations.)
“In just a couple of days there was an entire well-functioning operation in place with volunteers, transportation and endless animal food and other supply donations,” said Anastasia Shabelansky, Research Analyst consulting for Maddie’s Fund, also on the ground.
The main goal of this temporary facility was to receive animals from flooded regions of Houston and transfer them either to APA! in Austin or to the Best Friends center in Conroe, TX, where the animals could be claimed by owners or, if necessary, later adopted.
“The success of this transition center stemmed from its structure and volunteers who were willing to take the initiative,” said Shabelansky. “This allowed APA! staff members to focus on other things, such as finding rescue organizations for pets, coordinating the center and resolving numerous critical situations. The transition center consisted of small stations that helped animals efficiently move through the process.”
In addition to the well-functioning stations, there was a donation station where people could drop off pet provisions, and people affected by the hurricane could take donated items if they had animals and needed food or other supplies. There was also a large cleaning station to disinfect crates and distribute laundry, a station to assign and coordinate volunteers, and a human food station where volunteers can get lunch or snacks or water. All donations were from people or local businesses.
Volunteers of all ages and skill sets had also stepped up to the plate. “Some of them were as young as 13 who were there with their parents,” said Shabelansky. “Since they were too young to handle animals, they helped by cleaning numerous crates, in the heat no less. Just amazing!” All the area has sun tents and all humans and animals were protected.
The team went on to say that all the veterinarians and veterinary technicians were volunteers and doing incredible work there, with a special thank you to Dr. Ellen Jefferson of APA! who was managing the entire operation.
Since Wednesday, September 6, APA! has moved indoors to an abandoned storefront that has been cleaned and sanitized. “The incredible Katy Movers company donated three huge trailers and two professional movers who spent all day donating their time,” said Amber Freiwald, Research Coordinator for Maddie’s Fund.
The new location is in the same parking lot as Houston Pets Alive!. APA! will keep animals in this shelter until they get reclaimed by owners or get adopted. The known adoptable pets will go to Houston Pets Alive! “Hopefully being indoors will help and the flow will slow down,” said Ward.
Meanwhile, they informed us that Best Friends had been set up with about 400-500 animals and is planning to move to NRG Park Arena (The NFL Texas Titans Stadium) on Friday, September 8. Other organizations will join them there to help house more animals.
“We had a meeting earlier today defining how the NRG partnership was working between all the groups,” said Ward. “This will go on for the next couple of weeks at the same time building the capacity of Houston Pets Alive! to save lives.
“The support of volunteers, veterinarians, and the community has been amazing. The water has gone down in most places but many pets have been displaced. Our hotel parking lot is empty during the day, but filled at night with families staying in the hotel.
“Again, there are too many organizations to name, but we truly appreciate them all. From BARC helping get all of the permits for APA! to work out of the abandoned storefront, to Best Friends organizing the NRG stadium partnership, to the Pets4Life mobile unit offering low cost spay/neuter since Monday, and to the rest of the organizations that we haven’t had the pleasure of coming into contact with yet, everyone has played an important role, all in the name of lifesaving.”
Laurie Peek of Maddie’s Fund Executive Leadership Team summed it up perfectly. “There is beauty in chaos. Although incredibly sad and unfortunate circumstances, it is uplifting to see the extent that people will go through to help others, including the animals. We’re so grateful to all the volunteers and responders helping, along with the collaboration of organizations. Beautiful partnerships are forming!”