Coyote—a dog that has been afraid of people and had difficulty getting into the foster’s car.
by Ann Fowler
AUSTIN – In the last few decades, the status of pets has changed. They’ve gone from the barnyard in your grandparents’ day, to the backyard in your parent’s day, to the bedroom for many current pet owners. For many, pets are part of the family, so they were not going to be left in harm’s way if Austin could help it.
Austin Pets Alive!
As Hurricane Harvey closed in on the Texas coast, Austin Pets Alive sent out a plea: foster all dogs currently in the Austin shelter to make room for Harvey evacuees. Pets in animal shelters in Harvey’s path were in danger of being euthanized due to fear of flooding or staff’s inability to come to work to care for the animals.
Staff at Austin Pets Alive! reached out to shelters to allow animals to come to Austin for the duration.
Maya Gudamaralla of the Villages at Western Oaks heard about APA’s need for fosters and immediately applied. She told the Gazette, “I decided to foster because pets are often overlooked during hurricanes and then are left in harm’s way.”
She was introduced to Coyote, a dog that has been afraid of people and had difficulty getting into the foster’s car.
“Her behavior makes me think she was badly mistreated,” said Gudamaralla. “In the days she has been here she is taking treats from our hand and has become a little more relaxed. We are able to get closer to her without her running away. It will take time, but I think with lots of love she will be fine.”
Coyote’s foster family has nicknamed her Cupcake. She gets along with the Gudamaralla’s dog, Daisy. The family plans to foster her until she is adopted, but they are considering adopting her themselves.
At any given time, APA has about 600 dogs in foster homes around Austin. Christina Felton, an APA volunteer, told the Gazette that number had doubled as people offered to take in dogs—either those already living at APA or those who evacuated in from affected areas—during the storm.
While some were returned to the shelter after the storm, many remain in foster. These families will take their charges to adoption events until they find their forever homes.
In the aftermath of the storm, APA volunteers, led by executive director Dr. Ellen Jefferson, caravanned to Houston and Beaumont to help save more pets and bring them to safety.
An Austin Humane Society emergency pet shelter was activated as floodwaters persisted in Houston and Beaumont, and nearly 200 animals from those areas were brought in to receive medical exams and get cleaned up. APA partnered with the city of Austin to keep those animals safe and comfortable until they could be reunited with their families.
Such visibility may have led to Austin Pets Alive! being listed as an organization worthy of donations by those wanting to help Hurricane Harvey victims.
Donations from the organization’s wish list have been arriving daily, requiring more volunteers to sort them. Some can be used immediately, while others will be stored or shipped to shelter partners in need.
The quick response by Austin Pets Alive! and others contrasted with what happened in New Orleans. Officials learned the hard way in 2005 that many people will not leave their pets—even to save themselves. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, people stayed in harm’s way when pets were not allowed on evacuation buses or in emergency shelters.
Social media showed scores of pets being rescued as floodwaters rose, and when a photo was posted of people sitting outside an emergency shelter because pets weren’t allowed in, that rule quickly changed.
This Texas non-profit helps make sure adopted animals get every opportunity to find their happily ever after home. The group provides financial opportunities for education programs, medical assistance, and behavior and training instruction to animal organizations and adopters.
Bob Bridge, secretary of the group, told the Gazette, “Keeping a metropolitan area’s ‘no-kill’ status is no easy task.” He added, “Some adopters later find themselves in predicaments where they may be compelled to return the companion animal because of personal circumstance or inability to meet their animal’s medical needs. Quade Foundation provides assistance for these cases.”
The group is currently providing assistance to APA during the Hurricane Harvey evacuations.
The Canine Center for Training and Behavior
In 2005, trainers from the Canine Center, through Best Friends Animal Society, flew to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina to assess dogs. Working in triage, each dog was quickly evaluated as:
Ready to be reclaimed by its family
Ready for immediate adoption
Needing foster care to receive a little more attention
The team stands ready to go back into action, but has also offered services to evacuation centers to teach relaxation and enrichment techniques to help animals and their humans better cope.
The group offers discounted pet selection services to help get dogs placed with the right families. It is heartbreaking to hear of a dog being returned to a shelter days or weeks after adoption because “it’s not a good fit.”
Another service the Canine Center offers is helping those who have taken in evacuees and their pets. What happens when the dogs don’t get along? The Canine Center offers deeply discounted rates to help families integrate households.
Pet Stores bring in donations
Local pet stores have made it easy for customers to donate to help Hurricane Harvey victims.
Healthy Pet stores offered a 20 percent discount and no tax on purchased donations. All dog-wash proceeds September 1 through 3 were donated to the cause. All stores were drop-off points for items purchased in-store or not.
Tomlinson stores are accepting monetary donations through Sept. 10 for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, with funds paid out every evening for immediate use.
The Austin Zoo
Companion animals are not the only ones affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Austin Zoo is accepting crates of all sizes to help Victoria’s Texas Zoo, which was ravaged by the storm.