Shelter saves more than 100 cats and dogs from Hurricane Harvey floods

The shelter says almost all of the animals have found foster homes

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 08 September 2017 17:22 BST
New Orleans woman saves more than 100 shelter animals from Hurricane Harvey

The animals flooded into New Orleans this week, packed into kennels and stacked into cargo vans. They were Hurricane Harvey’s smallest refugees – the pets left behind during the storm.

The animals went straight to Zeus’ Rescues, a no-kill animal shelter in New Orleans, where director Michelle Ingram had volunteered to take in more than 100 animals affected by the hurricane.

“People really think of getting themselves and their children out - which they should - and pets are kind of an afterthought,” Ms Ingram told The Independent. “There's always these pets that are left behind, and I just want to be that gap filler.”

Using a system developed for rescue operations during Hurricane Katrina, Ms Ingram started sending the animals already in her shelter to temporary foster homes. Then she put out a call to local rescue organisations, telling them to send animals from Texas her way.

That’s when the animals came pouring in, from shelters all around the state. Many of them were sick; plagued with diarrhoea or upper respiratory issues from the stress of travel. One kitten had to have its leg amputated. Two animals arrived at the shelter while in labour. Another dog appeared poised to go into labour, Ms Ingram said, “but she was just fat”.

The idea, Ms Ingram explained, was to clear the shelters in flooded areas of animals, so that those found wandering the streets would have somewhere to stay. According to the shelter's website, almost all of the rescued animals have been adopted or placed in foster homes. Others have been taken in by shelters in the North, which have more room.

Experts don’t have a clear estimate of how many animals were affected by Harvey, but an estimated 600,000 pets died, or were left without shelter, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Ms Ingram has had to evacuate her own shelter twice – in Hurricane Gustav and in Hurricane Isaac. She hopes the partnerships she’s made through the Harvey relief effort will help her save more lives when the next storm hits.

“We live in New Orleans,” she said. “It’s going to happen again.”

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