Reuniting the family
Heather Acheson, director of the Golden Belt Humane Society, explained how owners of displaced animals may be reunited with their owners.
Houston shelters will likely post photos of the pets online and through social media, so owners can determine what shelter their pet may be at. Shelter staff will verify ownership in various ways, including veterinary bills, photos, and in some instances, how the animal responds to the owners.
“You can tell if a dog recognizes a family member by their body language,” Acheson said.
Many pets may be microchipped, but sometimes the original owner has given away the dog, or moved and failed to report their new address to the microchip company, Acheson said. The Golden Belt Humane Society microchips dogs before they leave with their adoptive owners, so she is familiar with the process.
Shelters who have chip reading technology attempt to track down owners when possible, she said.
While the Golden Belt Humane Society is currently full and unable to pull dogs from Texas shelters, Acheson said the organization will still help with the disaster effort.
Plans are underway for a money drive through Adopt-a-pet, and funds raised will be donated to a reputable organization in the Houston area so supplies needed can be purchased as needed. This way, already burdened shelters do not have to shoulder more as they struggle to find room to store donated supplies, she said.
Space, after all, is premium when disaster the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey strikes.
Monday, Rashaun Southard of Hands of Hope Rescue, Great Bend, hit the road with a handful of volunteers destined for San Antonio,Texas. They had empty vans and full hearts.
The organization is one of a few from Kansas working to help alleviate pressure on Texas animal shelters by pulling and transporting dogs that are already up for adoption and bringing them to foster homes and no-kill shelters states away.
Doing this will free up space for Houston area incoming dogs displaced by Hurricane Harvey so they can be kept safe until their owners come to take them home.
Tuesday, Southard and her group made contact with the San Antonio shelter staff, and began the work of determining which dogs would be transported back to Barton County. Crates were stacked, and more phone calls were made. Plans included two more stops at shelters on the return trip, one in Mesquite, Texas, and one in Garland, Texas, to fill up the rented vans.
“We’re going to bring as many as we can back with us,” Southard said.
Wednesday morning, they were up at 5:30 a.m., bonding with and coaxing dogs into crates stacked carefully on top of one another for the drive north. Fifteen were collected from the San Antonio shelter.
Hoisington Veterinary Hospital will provide shelter for some of the dogs, and others will be going out to foster homes right away. Some of the dogs may require procedures or medical attention.
Dr. Lindsey Mitchell, DVM, planned on meeting the vans in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
“We’ll get them off, check them over and make sure everyone’s doing good, and get them settled for the night,” she said.
Mitchell’s staff has prepared for the dogs arrival, ensuring there is a space for the anticipated 20 dogs. They will remain isolated from dogs currently being boarded. Coming from Texas, a four-day period is advised to make sure the dogs have time to acclimate to the new location and halt disease transmission.
In addition to providing veterinary care, Hoisington Veterinary Hospital is the designated impound facility for the City of Hoisington, and since Mitchell took over the practice, 100 dogs have been adopted, she said.
“Helping to find them good homes is one of the rewarding things about what I do,” she said. But, she added, she’s not alone. The community has donated food and towels, and volunteered time to play with the dogs. “It’s pretty awesome, and much appreciated.”
Good local response
The response to Hands of Hope’s efforts has been positive, Southard said.
“It’s amazing the number of people who have stepped up and are ready to foster these dogs, and many of our current fosters have agreed to take one more,” she said. More fosters are needed and applications for both fostering and adoption are available at the Hands of Hope website.
Donations can also be made through the website. Funds for medical care, food and crates are some of the expenses Hands of Hope anticipates. Already, supporters have helped raise and estimated $2,000.
In the weeks to come, Hands of Hope will do all it can to help, Southard said. While no additional trips are planned, she will remain in contact with shelters there, and will continue to facilitate transports or find foster homes.
After the water recedes, there will be a lot of homeless dogs, and many will be sick after being exposed to the dirty flood waters. Southard heard a report of a sighting of a group of several displaced dogs atop a Houston area hilltop earlier in the week.
“Getting to them will require the efforts of the American Humane Society volunteers who are trained and equipped to handle a tricky rescue like that,” she said. Many of those dogs have families that will come looking for them as soon as they are able, she added. Many of them, however, may never see their families again. “This is not over by a long shot.”