Generators, Grants and Gas Fuel Efforts for Animals Affected by Rita
Ironically, this spring Beaumont’s Ford Center was the host site of Texas’ Hurricane Conference for emergency management professionals and local officials. Four months later, the Center, surrounded by the destruction wrought by Hurricane Rita, is one of two staging centers for animals rescued from the wreckage. Although animal health officials estimate that more than 30,000 Texas pets and livestock were evacuated prior to the storm’s strike, many more were left behind, and their owners are unable to retrieve or house them immediately.
More than 12 agricultural-related agencies and associations are working cooperatively to address pet and livestock issues regarding rescue, water, feed, veterinary care or carcass disposal, to support the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management and local governments coping with the havoc from Hurricane Rita. "By working together, we draw on each other’s equipment, expertise, experience and capabilities," said Dr. Dee Ellis, assistant executive director for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency.
"As a small agency, we can’t do it all by ourselves," Dr. Ellis noted. "We need the partnership of other state and federal agencies, and animal care and protection organizations. One of the big issues now is animal rescue. We have notified affected counties that assistance is available at their request."
"Owners who have left animals behind should register on the www.petfinder.com web site, where their address and other requested information may be accessed only by team members, who will attempt to retrieve or care for the animals. When possible, we’ll leave animals in their homes and feed and water them," said Karen Medicus, project director with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a partner with the TAHC. She urged owners seeking lost animals or needing pet foster care, and volunteers wanting to provide foster homes, livestock or pet feed also to register on the national www.petfinder.com web site.
The Houston SPCA is working from Beaumont’s Ford Center to evaluate rescued animals before transferring them to their facilities in Houston. The animals will be held to give owners time to reunite with their pets. Currently the Houston team has authorization to provide animal rescue in Hardin, Orange, Harris, Jefferson, Galveston, Brazoria and Liberty counties. Harris County Rabies/Animal also is assisting in some counties. The animal rescue team in these counties can be reached 713-802-0555.
Medicus said the Houston SPCA evacuated 85 dogs and cats from the Southeast Texas Humane Society in Jefferson, which sustained damaged and was without power. These animals are being sheltered in the Houston SPCA facilities," reported Medicus
"Evacuated horses are being held at the Nacogdoches Expo Center, and companion animals are being moved to the Angelina Expo Center in Lufkin. This site will be able to respond to requests from officials in Tyler, north Newton County, Nacogdoches, Jasper, Sabine, San Augustine, Angelina and Polk counties," said Medicus. She said Cathy Clark, with the Texas Animal Control Association, is working with team members from the United Animal Nations, Humane Society of the United States, and ASPCA. The animal rescue team can be reached at 936-366-0128.
The ASPCA on Tuesday provided a $25,000 grant to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) for emergency response supplies for veterinarians. Dr. Elbert Hutchins, TVMA executive director, purchased and arranged delivery of generators and emergency response supplies for veterinarians in Winnie, Beaumont and Jasper without power to run essential medical equipment. Veterinarians in the hurricane-stricken counties who need support should alert the TVMA at
Since the storm, Fain and Smathers Veterinary Clinic in Jasper has run fans and dehumidifiers on generator power, while caring for 45 dogs and 15 cats, most from Galveston and Houston. "Any hotter, and we’d be in hell," said Dr. David Fain. "We’ve nearly lost a couple of veterinarians, but the pets have made it fine, and about half of them now have been picked up by their owners."
Dr. Fain reported that, early on, Houston and Galveston pet owners headed west to avoid the hurricane. "When the storm turned east and headed toward us, we couldn’t get in touch with owners. We knew we’d have to ride it out with the animals." Dr. Royce Smathers hunkered down in the clinic, while hurricane winds drove in a clinic wall more than a foot from the foundation, and tore shingles from the roof. Aside from being frightened, the animals -and veterinarian made it through the storm without injury.
"Gasoline shortages at first were a big problem for TAHC field staff trying to assess livestock damage; a problem that now has been eased somewhat. We have 33 TAHC staff working on response and also are relying on reports from county agents and area ranchers," commented Dr. Ellis. "TAHC inspectors are checking with county officials to offer help with livestock evacuation, feeding or carcass disposal issues. Fortunately, to date, we do not have large numbers of cattle losses reported in Texas."
"We have had sporadic requests for livestock feed or hay, and these requests were quickly accommodated," said Dr. Ellis. He asked that livestock feed and hay donations be coordinated through the TAHC at 1-800-550-8242, so the supplies can be properly distributed in the hard-hit counties.
The Texas Department of Agriculture’s Hay and Grazing hotline also can help producers locate hay for sale and lease pastures. Information can be obtained from the TDA toll-free at 877-429-1998, or on the TDA’s web site at http://www.agr.state.tx.us in the ‘Producer Information’ section. The TAHC also maintains a list of emergency evacuation holding facilities, if producers need a temporary site for livestock moved from storm-damaged pastures. All sites are subject to availability and should be contacted prior to moving animals. Information can be obtained on the TAHC web page at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us or by calling