2017-09-06 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Hurricane Harvey whipped into a whirlpool of “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Besides being a devastating demonstration of Mother Nature’s wrath, the storm brought forth the best and worst of humanity when in a rush against time to save all living beings from rising flood waters.

*The Good-Pet Evacuations: Most Texans learned a crucial lesson from Katrina exactly 12 years ago: “Leave no pet behind, thinking you will be coming back soon.” Those of us who watched Harvey rage sitting in front of our dry TV and computer screens were amazed to see how resourceful owners were in improvising ways to take their pets with them.

Dogs, cats, birds, even an armadillo were balanced with or without owners or cages on rowboats, rafts or anything that wouldn’t sink. The TV news featured a man fleeing with his two small dogs atop a large, inflatable swan from his swimming pool.

Young Harvey hero saves his puppy. Young Harvey hero saves his puppy. We saw people grasping their precious pets as they were airlifted into helicopters; Good Samaritans risking their own lives to save dogs about be submerged; strangers picking up strays crowded peacefully alongside other strays in rescue boats. One poignant image shows a young boy swimming and spitting out water while holding his puppy over his head in a large bowl.

Rescue workers went back to retrieve dogs and cats pressed against house foundations about to go under. Some cats were ear-tipped which means feral felines were saved as well. You may have seen the video of the cowboy riding a horse with water up to its shoulders lasso and free a terrified stallion stuck in a locked pen. He led the horse to safety. If the frightened horse weren’t in such deep water, he would have kicked him. There’s also a great photo of a donkey smiling after he was rescued, and others of herds of cattle led to higher ground.

Donkey smiles after being rescued from rushing water. Donkey smiles after being rescued from rushing water. Large and small rescue groups mobilized and headed to the Houston area immediately. Best Friends, the ASPCA and Guardians of Rescue sent teams. North Shore Animal League drove their emergency van to Texas. Westhampton Air National Guard conducted airlifts. A NYC rescue squad went door to door looking for people and pets trapped inside. St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in NJ brought back dogs and cats already in shelters to make room for the furry refugees.

The storm led to massive efforts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to clear animal shelters of their current population and transport them to the Northeast so there could be room in Southern shelters to give owners time to reclaim their pets. This extra space will be needed for months to come.

*The Good-LI Supply Drives: Long Island efforts to gather supplies began right away. Several businesses in Long Beach and Lindenhurst worked together to fill a 53 foot semi with necessary items including pet supplies. One of the organizers is Jenny Luca, a cat advocate whose dedication has been crucial in two Last Hope feral trapping emergencies- Frontier Trailer Park in N. Amityville and a Brentwood eviction with 50 abandoned cats. In a few days this Help Texas group collected $39,000 in gift cards too. Jet Blue will be flying members of the team pro bono to Texas so they can distribute gift cards to families in need.

A chained dog left to die while flood water rises. A chained dog left to die while flood water rises. At first we shortened the “Last Hope Teaming Up for Texas Pet Supply Drive” because donations have been overwhelming. The plan is to ship the “mother lode” on the trucks headed for Texas being provided via Nassau Legislator Steven Rhoads and Wantagh fire department. On Labor Day Last Hope received a generous offer of a storage trailer and help with delivery to drop-off from John Valentino owner of Westbury Trailer Leasing & Rehab in Brentwood. As I type this, we may resume our collection for a longer time depending on the arrangements we make with the fire department.

Many Long Islanders are frustrated because they want to help. Contributing to a supply drive makes them feel they’re part of the rescue effort. We will be forever grateful for out-of-state donations given to our shelters when Sandy ravaged the South Shore. Hempstead Shelter found tiny handwritten notes like “Long Island, Stay Strong” as the staff unpacked these boxes.

*The Bad-Fate of Unclaimed Pets: Seasoned animal welfare workers are concerned about the fast push to bring Harvey dogs to the NY area for adoption without providing displaced Texans adequate time to reclaim their pets. Emptying the shelters of resident populations is a wise idea, but transporting the cutest or most desirable Harvey pups to Northeast rescues to garner publicity and monetary donations will prevent many reunions. Groups at the scene are asking for at least a 30 day holding period before allowing displaced dogs and cats to be adopted.

To make matters worse, there is worry about what will happen to dogs and cats not redeemed, adopted or chosen for transport to no kill shelters, especially if there is a glut of Pit Bulls or heartworm positive dogs. Were these animals saved from the floods only to be euthanized later at shelters? Best Friends of Utah began a conversation with Texas agencies trying to prevent that from happening.

*The Ugly-Chained & Confined Animals: If Katrina and Sandy had any positive effect; both storms did change the public mindset about evacuating without taking defenseless pets. Some emergency shelters have become more willing to accept flood fugitives with their pets. The Nassau Pet Emergency Shelter at Mitchel Field became a reality because of animal rescue mistakes made during Katrina. This shelter didn’t close until seven months after the Super Storm when every single pet had a place to go.

Most Harvey victims made every attempt to bring their pets to safety with them. That is, except callous owners who left dogs chained to posts, confined in pens or locked in the house so they had no chance of saving themselves. Such cruelty is hard to comprehend. Thankfully, rescuers worked many miracles freeing these imprisoned pets.

*The Ugly- Act II: On that note, ugly Hurricane Irma is stalking us in the Atlantic. The storm’s position and strength will change by the time this “Pets” is published. Let’s pray everyone gets a reprieve and time to catch their breath after Harvey.

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