One of the more touching aspects of this whole hurricane ordeal (after the human angle, of course) are what happens to the pets when they’re left behind when their owners evacuate. I can’t imagine anyone leaving their pet on purpose, and many people explain that as they were leaving the dog got loose or the cat couldn’t be found; in some cases the amount of pets – 34 birds for example – make it impossible for the owners to take all of them.
Some misguided people do think that pets can fend for themselves. But there are also people who won’t leave without their pets. Such was the case of a woman who was caught by the rising surge (the surge began hours before it even started to rain!) she had thought there was time to leave in the early morning of Friday, but by then the roads on Bolivar Peninsula were impassable. So she called 311 and was air-lifted out, as well as her dog, a cute (and happy!) golden retriever named Sugar. Rescuers said she had refused to be rescued unless Sugar was rescued as well. It was quite a sight to see on TV the sight of Sugar being lifted out of the helicopter first, and then her owner.
The authorities were more humane this time and did allow evacuees who went by bus to take their pets. I also saw many people as they drove up from the coast with their pets in the back seat of their cars, often it was a dog (or two) and cats though there were quite a number of birds as well.
The amazing thing is that so many of the pets left on the island (Galveston) survived – the 34 birds made it, as did their fellow ferrets and two guinea pigs – as they were rescued by the ASPCA and were actually reunited with their owners. There was also the case of a dog that came back to its owner’s driveway and sat down to wait, even though the house was completely washed away. I think it was a collie. A neighbor found him and took him to the pick up point and he was bused to Houston, along with 200 other animals.
The ASPCA has also taken in wildlife, especially baby squirrels shaken off the trees by the wind and abandoned by their mothers (or maybe the mother squirrels were killed, who knows!) as well as some reptiles. Unfortunately some wildlife simply didn’t make it, like the pelican with the broken wing that died on the way to Houston. The hurricane winds were so strong that the sea birds simply couldn’t fly in it.
Right now, Houstonians can foster a rescued animal, for 10 days, and see if their owner comes forth and claims it. After 10 days they can either adopt the pet or return it to the ASPCA. There have been quite a few reunited pets and owners, happily. The idea is to open space at the ASPCA for more animals and also to let the storm-weary and stressed pets recover in a loving home.
I think it’s the cutest idea ever. I firmly believe that how we treat animals mirrors how we treat our fellow human beings. At the university we have a food drive going both for people and for pets. If I had more space and spent more time at home, I’d definitely foster a scared and stressed furry friend.
- 25 Sep, 2008
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