People who work with pets and animals might soon notice a boom in the number of little creatures named Harvey.
At least two animal advocacy organizations are telling stories of animals saved in the wake of the former hurricane who rescuers named after the storm that battered Texas.
Those two animals – a baby sheep and a hawk – are among thousands of animals needing help after Harvey, which has left a death toll in the double digits. An army of organizations and workers are finding that the efforts to rescue and transport dogs, cats and other creatures is nearly as intense as that to help humans affected by Harvey.
“We are actually ramping things up,” Katie Jarl, Texas state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told USA TODAY Friday.
“When you have a population of that many thousands upon thousands of people who have lost homes and people are using the news to just find their family members – can you imagine if it’s that difficult to find your mom and dad how difficult it is to find your cat?” Jarl said.
The rescue effort for thousands of pets affected by the storm will take years, said Jarl, adding that her long days and nights getting animals flown to other parts of the country, returned to owners, treated by veterinarians and rescued from danger have been “powered by coffee.”
Jarl’s organization is one of many that have coalesced to make sure people’s furry companions get to safety and health after the storm that pounded Texas. Every organization and private company that deals with animals seems to be involved: the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Best Friends Animal Society, GreaterGood.org, Wings of Rescue, PetSmart and many more.
The furry — and not so furry creatures — are often rattled by what has happened and sopping wet when they arrive to safety. Some have gotten sick while waiting for help. Some are found clinging to furniture, while others have been saved from drowning.
The efforts are massive:
— Best Friends Animal Society has taken over the 15-acre Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Texas, and made it into Rescue and Reunite Center where animals are being reunited with owners or triaged.
— People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, was in hard-hit Port Arthur rescuing stranded animals by boat in scenes reminiscent of Noah’s Ark.
— On Thursday, a team representing the Humane Society went to hard-hit Rockport, Texas. The workers are sleeping in the local jailhouse because it is the only place still standing with enough beds for them and they are people who have lost everything, Jarl said.
At the Montgomery County Fairgrounds site, 30 employees with Best Friends Animal Society from all over the country were handling veterinary care, animal transportation and other duties, Eric Rayvid, director of public relations and content marketing for Best Friends, told USA TODAY.
“We’re bringing all animals rescued from the flood waters here and letting people know they can come here to find their pets,” said Rayvid, the sounds of barking at the fairgrounds site in the background.
Organizations and companies have donated money, goods and services too, animal advocates said. Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper Real Estate in San Antonio is inviting the public to a pet adoption event planned in conjunction with shelters.
The American Kennel Club Humane Fund has donated $10,000 and a trailer to help with the pet rescue to the city of Houston. GreaterGood.org paid for about 120 dogs and cats from a shelter in Louisiana to be flown by the humanitarian animal organization Wings of Rescue to Manassas, Va., on Saturday so they would have a safe place to live until they can be reunited with their families.
PetSmart Charities is giving upwards of $1 million in emergency aid and several truckloads of pet food and supplies to help the animal advocacy groups working on the ground.
The animals that are the recipients of all this help are not always dogs and cats.
There was the baby sheep found drowning in a ditch in San Antonio now named Harvey. There was the hawk that set up shop in the back seat of a Houston taxi and would not leave, forcing the driver to take him home (now safely recuperating at a wildlife facility). There was the shaggy 80-pound mutt named Sandy who was waiting to be adopted out of a San Antonio shelter near January and who now has people waiting to adopt him at his new shelter home in Seattle.
There was the little pig found wandering in an abandoned area, and a waterlogged armadillo who just needed a boost to dry land.
Some of the animals are injured or sick because of the storm, Jarl said.
“When animals experience high levels of stress they make themselves sick,” Jarl said. “They’ve spent days on top of boxes sometimes. Their immune systems will shut down.”
Many cats are coming down with upper respiratory infections, she said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was asking people to tweet the locations of animals in need in Harvey’s wake to @PETA. Its team was in Port Arthur, rescuing animals by boat. On Thursday, the team saved four stranded kittens, three dogs and an ailing chicken. The team found one of the kittens clinging to a patio umbrella and the others huddled nearby. They found three dogs left in a flooded backyard standing on part of a rotting wooden shelf and they came to the rescue of an armadillo stranded on a small patch of land, David Perle, PETA’s assistant media manager, told USA TODAY.
The fairgrounds in Conroe was quickly reaching its 1,000-animal capacity, said Rayvid of Best Friends. The site was housing three distinct groups of animals, he said: evacuees staying at the nearby Lone Star Convention & Expo Center, where pets are not allowed, pets evacuated from flood zone shelters and pets rescued from the flood zone, he said.
As pets come in they’re evaluated, given vaccines, checked for chips and made comfortable, he said.
“They’re coming out of the water, they’re coming out stressed, coming out timid and scared but we’re seeing they’re overall healthy because we know it’s sometimes easier to get over the stress,” he said. “We’re walking them, keeping them socialized. There’s a lot of people taking good care of them.”
Follow Melanie Eversley on Twitter: @melanieeversley