Like you, our staff has been watching heartbreaking images of Hurricane Harvey’s impact and the frightening trajectory of Hurricane Irma, wondering how we can help our Texas neighbors in need now, and residents impacted by Irma in the near future. In the last week, I’ve spoken with individuals in the animal welfare field and, based on those conversations, want to take a moment to share thoughts on the current situation in Texas, and how local residents’ compassion can be best utilized to make a difference.
Why we shouldn’t go to Texas right now
Emergency response efforts in Texas require personnel trained in disaster response that can understand and enforce animal laws and ordinances. On-the-ground involvement in the current recovery efforts would not provide the type of help that is needed right now, and would likely be a hindrance. As the situation and the needs become more clear in Texas, and as we receive more information on Hurricane Irma’s impact, I intend to evaluate the Lawrence Humane Society’s (LHS) ability to help and provide whatever assistance is needed.
Why we shouldn’t just start pulling animals from Texas shelters
Right now, Texas is inundated with stray animals — most of whom have been displaced as a result of the storm. They have families.
Unless an animal was in the shelter system prior to the hurricane and had completed its stray hold, we can’t be certain that a pet being sheltered as a result of the storm doesn’t have a family. Transferring pets to Lawrence that have entered the care of shelters as a result of the storm could permanently separate those pets from the families that love them. Families who, in many cases, have already lost so much.
Helping locally can help Texas
There is aid we can provide on a local level. Prior to Harvey, thousands of unowned, adoptable animals were waiting for new homes in Texas shelters. LHS has committed to taking as many of these animals as possible, and we are currently working on transport plans with our shelter partners to bring these pets to Lawrence. Additionally, we will seek similar opportunities with areas affected by Hurricane Irma in the coming week. Transferring in these pets will allow affected organizations in Texas, and possibly later in Florida, to focus their efforts on sheltering and reuniting pets lost in the storm with their families.
Donating to help animals
Many animal welfare organizations are doing incredible work in Texas and it can be challenging to determine where to send donations. Contributing to a local group like the Houston SPCA allows a collaborative, nationally-respected organization to have the support it needs to take the lead and organize efforts in the region. We will post additional details on helping organizations impacted by Hurricane Irma.
Turn your compassion into action
As you evaluate options for helping animals in Texas, consider how you can have the biggest impact. While it may be tempting to send supplies, in disaster recovery situations, financial contributions are more helpful as they allow organizations to purchase the exact supplies needed without having to respond to and store an influx of donations that may not be useful in recovery efforts.
If you are able to open your home to help a pet, please consider adopting or becoming a LHS foster parent to help us make room for Texas pets. Unable to take in a pet? Donate to our Transfer Fund to help in our efforts to transfer in Texas pets. By being part of a larger strategy, we can truly save more lives.
Thank you for being advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves.