Texas dogs and cats make their way to the First State

As government agencies and organizations like the American Red Cross work to assist the human victims of Hurricane Harvey, hundreds of animal rescue groups from across the country, including some right here in Delaware, are doing their part.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on Friday, August 25, ultimately dumping about 19 trillion gallons of water on the state and causing unprecedented flooding. At least 70 people died as a result of the storm. The number of pets affected is not yet known.

BARC is the City of Houston’s contracted animal shelter. It is required to accept all animals regardless of breed, temperament, health conditions and/or circumstance. Between July 2016 and July 2017, BARC took in more than 27,500 animals, so with Harvey on its way, there was very little room for pets that would inevitably be displaced.

However, in the days before the storm’s arrival, animal shelters and rescues all over the country rallied to organize shelter space, foster homes, transportation and supplies for Texas animals.

Here in Delaware, Renee’s Rescues, based out of Hockessin, arranged to bring 32 dogs and cats across the country to foster homes in Delaware. The Brandywine Valley SPCA, Delaware’s contracted animal shelter with locations in New Castle, Georgetown and West Chester, Pennsylvania, took in almost 80 dogs and cats. Tailbangers, a Millsboro dog treat business, and Partners for Paws, an Ocean View nonprofit, have set up a pet supply drive.

For Partners for Paws director Kate Hungerford, the opportunity to help Texas animals didn’t require a second thought.

“If we were in the same situation, I would hope the rest of the country would rally behind us, too,” she said.

Renee’s Rescues

Under Renee Martini’s leadership, Renee’s Rescues, a Hockessin nonprofit, has taken in more than 100 dogs already this year. Many of them were saved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania-area puppy mills by undercover volunteers. Neither Martini nor anyone else involved in the organization is paid for their efforts.

Renee’s Rescues offered to help as soon as Harvey became imminent. The rescue partnered with Rockwall Pets, an animal rescue near Dallas, to take 15 cats and 15 dogs in order to make room for pets displaced by the hurricane.

Martini put out the call for a truck to transport the animals on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised. Last year, Renee’s Rescues worked with the Philadelphia Eagles on an advertising campaign for Show Your Soft Side, a nonprofit that promotes kindness toward animals. It was an Eagles player that anonymously donated a rental truck for the trip.

With Martini and a volunteer in the truck and another volunteer in a van, they made the long drive to Knoxville, Tennessee to meet Rockwall volunteers and pick up the dogs and cats. Around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, they arrived at the Animal Veterinary Center in Bear, where volunteers were waiting to welcome the animals and help process them.

“They were so happy to see people and be touched,” said Renee’s Rescues vice president Chelsea Rhudy.

ACT’s Dr. Teri Schultz waived fees for wellness exams for each animal. Renee’s Rescues footed the bill for vaccinations and tests.

From ACT, the animals were divvied up between other Delaware rescue groups, including One Dog More in Dover, Grass Roots Rescue in Lewes and Compassion For Cats of Delaware in Camden. Several Texas cats have already been adopted.

“Without rescues across the country helping to empty the shelters in Texas, there wouldn’t be any space for dogs displaced from Harvey,” Rhudy said. “Without space, it’s possible that a lot of dogs would have been euthanized. It was imperative to get out as many as possible.”

BVSPCA efforts

The Brandywine Valley SPCA sees about 10,000 animals each year in its three locations, and often takes in animals from areas with high euthanization rates. In the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 3, 24 dogs and 26 cats arrived at the BVSPCA, part of a 200-animal transfer led by the Humane Society of the United States and flown in by Wings of Rescue, with ground transport by Animal Lifeline. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 26 more dogs arrived from Texas. The animals were all taken to the BVSPCA’s West Chester and Georgetown locations.

“These are animals in shelters prior to the hurricane that were up for adoption,” said the BVSPCA’s Linda Torelli. “There’s a large effort taking place in Texas and Louisiana to move out shelter animals so animals rescued during the hurricane can stay local to the area to hopefully be reclaimed by their families.”

In addition, the BVSPCA sent 10 employees to help organize efforts in the Houston area. BVSPCA chief executive officer Adam Lamb was asked to help set up a temporary shelter for more than 1,000 animals at the NRG Arena in Houston and other BVSPCA employees will assist the SPCA of Brazoria County.

“We’re honored to be asked to assist during this critical time in the Houston area for the animals and their families,” Lamb said. “We’re looking forward to working alongside so many local and national organizations doing heroic work for the animals.”

The BVSPCA is also collecting supplies to take to Texas, including crates, puppy pads and paper towels. Donations can be dropped off at any BVSPCA location, and monetary donations can be made at bvspca.org.

Sussex supply drive

In Sussex County, Tailbangers’ owner Lisa St. Clair got the ball rolling. She, with the help of Partners for Paws, has been busy collecting cash donations and supplies and was already able to send a truck to Texas with God’s Way of Milford. Now, St. Clair is working to collect as many supplies as possible.

Once Partners for Paws’ Kate Hungerford was on board with the project, the two ladies organized a county-wide donation event, to be held Sept. 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tailbangers, which is located at 24546 Betts Pond Road in Millsboro.

Items needed include flashlights, tarps, rain gear, crates, dog beds, leashes, collars, gallon jugs of water, dog food, cat food and clean linens.

If you’d like to donate prior to the event, you can do so at the Lewes Meineke, the Rehoboth Beach Concord Pet, Pet Stop in Millville and Fenwick Island, Coastal Veterinary in Selbyville, Yuppy Puppy in Bethany Beach or Tailbangers in Millsboro.

Partners for Paws has so far donated $2,000 worth of medical supplies and has collected more than $1,200 in cash donations, and counting. Hungerford said they will most likely get involved in animal rescue efforts associated with Hurricane Irma, as well.

Visit partnersforpawsde.org or their Facebook page for more information.

The bigger picture

Leigh Maddox, CEO of Compassion For Cats of Delaware, said there are things everyone can do to help.

“If you can’t adopt an animal, foster one. If you can’t foster, donate money or supplies. If you can’t donate, even sharing our Facebook posts is helpful,” she said. “But above all – spay and neuter your pets.”