HWAC mobilizes to rescue shelter animals after Hurricane Harvey

HWAC mobilizes to rescue shelter animals after Hurricane Harvey
Helen Woodward Animal Center answered the call in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, rescuing 64 animals from storm-ravaged Houston. Courtesy photos

RANCHO SANTA FE— Animal rescue workers rallied into action following the wrath of Hurricane Harvey, which left overwhelming amounts of flood waters behind. One local organization lending a helping hand was Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe which rescued 64 animals after receiving a call from Operation Pets Alive! on Aug. 31.

Four HWAC staff members, including vet techs, flew into Austin, Texas, since all flights into Houston were rerouted. 

Operations Pets Alive!, headquartered in Texas, raises awareness regarding the No-Kill movement. After Hurricane Harvey lashed Houston, Operations Pets Alive! was in desperate need of help for shelter animals.

“These were homeless animals, with no families when Hurricane Harvey hit,” Jessica Gercke, PR and communications director of HWAC said. “These shelters were suddenly underwater and the food was ruined. They had no electricity and their veterinary abilities were shut down.” 

Gercke said Montgomery County Animal Shelter utilized the Lone Star Convention Center as an emergency shelter for these orphan pets. And Operation Pets Alive! is working to turn Montgomery County into a No-Kill county. 

During the hurricane ruin and chaos, people who lost their homes turned to functioning animal shelters to house their pets until they settled into a new place.

Concerns mounted over the safety of shelter animals — there was a fear that shelter animals would be euthanized due to the limited kennel space.   

Operation Pets Alive! reached out to HWAC asking if they could take some homeless animals.

HWAC couldn’t get there fast enough.

“Southwest Airlines, who is an amazing friend, gave us a plane free for us to use,” Gercke said. “Their crew donated their time.”

HWAC stayed for a few days helping with the shelters in the area including the Lone Star Convention Center.

“Many animals were in need,” Gercke said. “Our team helped take donations, stacked up food, provided veterinary care, walked the animals and did whatever they could to help out. She noted there were about 700 animals at the Lone Star Convention Center.

On Sept. 5, HWAC team members returned home on a Southwest Airlines flight, bringing back 64 Harvey Pets ranging from dogs to cats, puppies and kittens. 

Gercke shared that SeaWorld San Antonio donated vans with air conditioning to transport the animals during a three-hour drive back to the Austin Airport.

When HWAC touched ground in San Diego, Sea World San Diego provided animal transportation to Rancho Santa Fe.

The journey these shelter animals went through was enormous, Gercke said.

“We don’t know their backstory, but all of them are dealing with various things,” she said. “Some of them are brand new babies needing special care, while others may have been abused. And then this storm hits, and there is all this devastation. Then these shelter animals are taken to Lone Star Convention Center where they are surrounded by a ton of other animals and then they fly here.”

When the animals arrived in San Diego, the HWAC team gave them a 48-hour rest period and determined if any had health issues, like a cold. HWAC foster families then gathered to take these pets home until they find their forever homes.

“Our foster families have been such lifesavers to us,” Gercke said. “Majority of our Harvey Pets are in foster right now, and we provide our fosters everything, and they bring the animals in for veterinary checks.”

But most of all, HWAC’s Harvey Pets are getting the love and attention they need. Gercke wants potential forever families to stay in touch with HWAC for updates on Harvey Pets adoptions which officially began on Sept. 9.

As each pet recuperates, they will be up for adoption. Gercke asks that monetary donations be made to Operations Pets Alive! or the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.

“These organizations are still finding and saving animals,” Gercke said. “Of course, that takes so much money, so we ask that people consider continuing to help them out.”

For more information about Operation Pets Alive! visit www.operationpetsalive.org, for Montgomery County Animal Shelter www.mcaspets.org and for HWAC log onto www.animalcenter.org

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