A four-person team from OHS deployed to Houston on August 30 to assist the Houston SPCA with disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
This is expected to be the first of many teams of OHS staff and volunteers to deploy to help pets in the disaster zone. Read the story here »
On this page, OHS is sharing updates received from the OHS team during their week-long deployment (the team returned Sept. 6). The group consisted of volunteers Sherry Adams and Kristy Nicholas, and staff members Daniel Rost and Megan Willard. Their reports appear after the photo slide show below.
To support all the efforts of OHSto help pets in need, please donate here »
Photos from Texas (see journal entries below)
Sep. 5: Final Day
Daniel Rost (for the team): The OHS crew started off feeding wildlife this morning. The staff at the Texas Wildlife Center are already dreading our departure on Wednesday. Then Daniel got to tube feed a brown pelican (it was SO COOL!) Their mouths are so large, he had to stick his entire hand in the pelicans mouth in order to get the tube in the correct place. We got to view the pre-release pens, called mews, for the wildlife. They have such a wonderful and large facility. We stuck around for the mid-day feeding as well. After lunch we returned to the wildlife care center for the last feeding and medication. Daniel got to hold the educational Harris hawk, a very impressive animal. Houston SPCA announced today that they were launching a fostering program with the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, where Harvey rescue pets will be fostered by local veterinarians. They have agreed to a 45 day hold for owners to try and reunite with their pets. They have launched a portal on the website Find Rover which utilizes facial recognition. Once a pet is brought in through Houston SPCA, the shelter buddy photo is automatically uploaded to the portal. Owners can upload a photo of their missing pet and it will match them with all the animals in care that have similar faces. The general public can also upload photos of strays that they have found.
Sherry Adams: I expected my day at the shelter to be a repeat of previous days – feeding wildlife. I controlled my emotions (which I’m not doing as I write this) knowing I would get to feed them one more time. Before the third feeding, the rest of the team and I helped clean a dog pod. In addition, when arriving back at the Wildlife Center, Kristy and I got to transfer two ducks to clean kennels and clean their kennels. Did you know that wild ducks do not like being picked up?? Just as we finished with the ducks, Daniel got a call requesting two of our team and our van to transfer dogs from HSPCA to Austin. When we realized our van wouldn’t hold 6 dogs in kennels, it was decided that Kristy and I would take the dogs in a U haul van. While putting together new wire crates for the 3 big dogs the plan changed again. The new plan was for us to take 2 big dogs and two little dogs in our rental can to San Antonio- yes, San Antonio!! So, we loaded up the dogs and made the 3+ hour drive to San Antonio. We dropped the dogs off with a veterinarian who agreed to foster out the dogs for up to 45 days; time for the dogs’ “parents” to claim them utilizing some cool online programs. We made it to San Antonio without having to stop for gas. We didn’t want to stress the dogs out any more making a stop. So, after dropping off the dogs,, we needed to get gas. The gauge showed less, much less than a quarter of a tank. Unfortunately, no gas stations had gas. Oops!! We decided to drive back toward Houston. As we drove, we found that gas stations along the freeway did not have gas. Kristy texted Daniel who began researching gas stations along our route. He found one only 10 miles away. Good thing because our van dinged and showed 33 miles worth of gas left. Luckily we made it to the gas station, filled up and arrived safely to our hotel by 9:10 this evening- whew!!
Worst part of the day? Not getting to say goodbye to the animals I’d fed all week. Second worst, not getting to say goodbye to the staff and volunteers at the Wildlife Center.
Sept. 4: Feeding
Daniel Rost (for the team): The OHS crew started off feeding wildlife this morning and we have all become feeding experts. The staff at the Texas Wildlife Center are already dreading our departure on Wednesday. Daniel and Megan did all the subcutaneous fluids. Then Daniel got to tube feed a brown pelican. Their mouths are so large, he had to stick his entire hand in the pelican’s mouth in order to get the tube in the correct place.
Houston SPCA announced today that they were launching a fostering program with the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, where Harvey rescue pets will be fostered by local veterinarians. They have agreed to a 45 day hold for owners to try and reunite with their pets. They have launched a portal on the website Find Rover which utilizes facial recognition. Once a pet is brought in through Houston SPCA, the shelter buddy photo is automatically uploaded to the portal. Owners can upload a photo of their missing pet and it will match them with all the animals in care that have similar faces. The general public can also upload photos of strays that they have found.
Sept 3: Cleaning
Daniel Rost (for the team): We started off by feeding the wildlife animals being care for. After the morning feeding our OHS team was asked to clean in the “large dog” pod. We were sent a team of volunteers who just came in for the day to help however they could. This was challenging as they did not have a lot of animal handling skills, but we worked out an efficient system and were able to get all the dogs a nice clean bunk and a cozy bed. After lunch we went back to the Texas Wildlife Center. Today, teams from LASPCA and Connecticut Humane arrived to help out.
Sherry Adams:Today was different than the past few days. We started out feeding wildlife, but afterwards were assigned to clean the “male side” of the big dog pods. Volunteers took the dogs down to the end of the pod and stood with them while the kennels were deep cleaned and clean water was provided. After lunch, it was back to the wildlife center , then back to the shelter where cats needed to be moved from medical to other locations. Completed that task at 5 p.m., which ended our work day.
Sept 2: Helping Others
Sherry Adams: Just an hour or so in to our shift, Megan and I were assigned to drive to Dickinson, about one hour away, taking dog and cat food as well as several crates. We filled our van with those items and two HSPCA staff members filled another vehicle with crates. Once we got there, we met with the director of the local shelter … he told us he needed us to visit several neighborhoods that had been affected by the flooding and offer dog and cat food. Alex (from HSPCA) and I drove through several neighborhoods during the morning. We would stop the van, get out and walk from house to house asking if folks had dogs and/or cats and if they needed food for them. The people who accepted our offer were so grateful. Many of them were busy emptying their homes of furniture, carpet, hardwoods, and more. As we knocked on doors and offered pet food, one woman told us she had 3 adult female cats and 7 very young babies belonging to two of the adult cats. We offered to take the cats and kittens to the shelter and they were very appreciative. We loaded the cats and kittens into crates and delivered them to the local shelter. By the end of the day, all of the felines had been picked up by a rescue group!! What great news for those cats and kittens!!
We saw some people outside their home, taking a rest from emptying their home. We asked if they needed pet food and they did so we gave them some. As I got back into the van to continue down the street, I saw a dog alongside the street. He seemed to be limping so we drove up close and got out of the van. The beagle mix had a bad back leg and was lying on the ground chewing on what sounded like a bone. No I.D. and the neighbors said they hadn’t seen her before. So, we gathered up the pudgy girl and put her in a crate and back to the shelter we went. She was such a good girl!! Unfortunately, no chip or collar, so she was logged in as a stray.
The feeling of having helped some people/pets out was so satisfying!! Yes, my clothes were sopping wet with sweat; yes, I probably smelled really bad; and yes, I was exhausted, but it was all so worth it. Those people who had been through so much misery were so friendly and thankful for the pet food we provided. In addition to helping folks, I got to know Alex during our drive to Dickinson. Great guy who loves helping pets! We made a great team today. I hope he and I get to work together again.
Sept 1: Sad News
Sherry Adams: Today was a very stressful, emotional day for me. While unloading crates from the ASPCA trailer in the front of the shelter a middle aged woman drove by slowly. She looked upset and stopped her car. I walked over and asked if she was okay. She said “no” that she wasn’t and she started crying. Her dog had ingested some of the flood waters and was not acting right so she brought her in to see what the medical folks thought. Her dog had to be euthanized. She said the flooding had been devastating and that this was horrible! I put an arm around her as she cried. I didn’t know what to say; what can you say to ease that kind of pain??? We talked about how she had done the right thing for her dog, to keep her from suffering. She stopped crying, took a few deep breaths and said she had to get gas because her car was on empty. I gave her another squeeze and told her I’d be thinking about her. She thanked me and said to thank everyone for coming to help. I walked back over to our group. One of the women we’ve been hanging out with from San Diego walked over and gave me a hug because she saw that I was crying. I cannot imagine how that woman must feel after losing so many material things and then losing her beloved dog!!
Aug 31: First day of work at the Houston SPCA shelter
Daniel Rost: The day started off slowly and progressively got busier as rescues were starting to come in throughout the area. I started off cleaning the stray cat room; the animals were already in the shelter prior to Harvey. I then switched to help load all the adoptable dogs from the large, small, and puppy dog rooms into carriers which were then loaded on the SPCA transport vehicle headed to Atlanta. Cats were also loaded on a transport vehicle provided by the Austin Humane Society. The goal was to empty the shelter for incoming animals from the rescue and from other small local municipal shelters. After loading the transport vehicle I was asked to help out in the Wildlife Center of Texas an affiliate of Houston SPCA. I learned that they care for more than 11,000 animals each year and are one of the busiest wildlife rehabilitation centers in in the country … I then was asked to use my technician skills to help intake cats that were rescued from the Galveston and Brazos County area. Intake of the cats was similar to our process at OHS including vaccines, flea treatment, microchip, and a picture. Many of the Houston SPCA employees who were teaching us the protocols lost their homes and were currently displaced. Despite their immense loss, they all had such positive attitudes and were so thankful for all the help from everyone across the nation that has come to help them.
Kristy Nicholas: I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we arrived but it was a really great day. We started the day working with Houston ASP CA and San Diego Humane Society loading up trucks of adoptable dogs and cats to send to Atlanta and Austin. This opened up space for the displaced pets from Harvey that are coming in. Once the trucks were on the road, we headed over to the wildlife center to syringe feed baby squirrels. We got to see all the wildlife that was brought in from the storm: possums, raccoons, birds, even two baby beavers. We ended the day helping with an intake of cats from Galveston; they needed to empty their shelter due to the storm. It was great to see all the different organizations working together. Looking forward to tomorrow!
Megan Willard: This morning was our first day at the Houston SPCA. All of the staff were great and were keeping their cool under all of the stress. There ended up being so many local volunteers who came to help the animals! Many noticed our OHS shirts and everyone was so sweet making sure that we had everything we need, one couple even offered extra rooms at their home if we needed a place to stay. Luckily we were able to get a hotel room but the offer was appreciated. I started my shift cleaning the cat kennels in one of the back rooms … After lunch a transfer of dogs and cats arrived from Galveston so we jumped in to help. Daniel and I teamed up to vaccinate and microchip the incoming cats. There were quite a few cats and it took the rest of the afternoon to get through all of the cats. It was a fun first day.
Sherry Adams: I started out in the main shelter, cleaning dog kennels in the “big dog” pod. Went from there to the Wildlife building where I worked alongside an HSPCA staff member cleaning baby (and I do mean baby) squirrel condos … From there, we went outside to feed and water the ducks and a mixture of smaller birds. The ducks were very frightened of us, but loved, loved, loved the food! Post lunch duties included going back to the Wildlife building and putting little squirrels back into their pouches (some of them found their way out) so they would stay warm. Checked on the ducks and other birds and then awaited a truckload of dogs and another of cats coming in from Galveston. Using a cart, moved crated dogs into their new homes. Carried crated cats into their new home areas. Last job of the day was crating cats/kittens to take them into medical to get their shots, ID collars, etc. Then took them back to their kennels. So many volunteers there today. Almost overwhelming!! Sure it was overwhelming for the HSPCA staff
August 30: Arriving in Texas
Sherry Adams: Long day of travel. Before we started the drive from Austin to Houston, we stopped at a Wal-Mart to buy food for our lunches and dinners. Empty shelves on the bread aisle! A little over an hour out of town we filled up with gas, because we were told there wasn’t any available past Columbus. The inside of the gas station had been flooded but was dry today. Half an hour later, we saw a freight truck on a road under the freeway. It was partially submerged in water. Closer in toward the worst-affected area, standing water looked to be about three feet deep, but only in certain areas. Other areas were dry. Most restaurants along the road were closed; those that were open were packed! What was the most strange was that sun was out, no clouds; and then it was as if there was a barrier and beyond that barrier were dark clouds everywhere. The brother of the front desk clerk at our hotel had lost everything—home, cars, etc. How difficult for folks who have been so affected still having to go to work every day and, in a profession like this person’s, smile and be friendly.
Daniel Rost: We all made it safely to the hotel in Houston. The drive from Austin was smooth sailing, absolutely no issues with flooding on the main highways and traffic was surprisingly light. It was pretty dark when we arrived, but from what we could tell the flooding is not affecting the area that our hotel is in. Most of the local stores are operational but supplies are limited and deliveries aren’t occurring. There is no gasoline within a 45-minute radius of Houston. The flooding is in a strange pattern of severe flooding to absolutely no effect in just a matter of blocks. For instance, two blocks from our hotel there is severe flooding on the side streets and businesses, but out hotel parking lot has not even a puddle. We plan to meet San Diego Humane team at Houston SPCA tomorrow at 7:30 am.