Hurricane Ike

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American Humane Association Rescues Animals in Texas Following Hurricane Ike

American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services team has returned from Texas after completing disaster response operations for animals affected by Hurricane Ike. We began deploying on Sept. 13 at the request of the Texas State Animal Resource Team (TXSART) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), and we completed our operations on Sept. 21 and were demobilized by TXSART.

Our team and our 82-foot-long animal emergency services Rescue Rig were in the Beaumont area, conducting disaster assessments, animal search-and-rescue, and sheltering operations, as needed, in the southeast Texas region.

View some images from the Hurricane Ike deployment: 


American Humane Association’s senior director of Animal Emergency Services, Debrah Schnackenberg -- after just returning from a deployment in Louisiana following Hurricane Gustav -- deployed to Texas and filed reports from the scene of our response to Hurricane Ike:

Friday, Sept. 19

I forgot to mention yesterday -- we also rescued 5 goats.

Today, dog, cat and puppy food arrived at the White’s Park shelter. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., sent 3 large pallets of food, and we were all very glad to receive it. Our American Humane Association Red Star animal search-and-rescue team loaded a large amount of the food on our vehicles and headed back into the ravaged towns of Oak Island, White Heron, Smith Point and Double Bayou. We spent the day providing the residents with pet food for their own animals, as well as for their absent neighbors’ pets, which they continue to feed daily.

The smiles on people’s faces as we get out of our trucks with big sacks of pet food is heartwarming, as are the handshakes and hugs we get when we simply hand the bags to them. They said no one else has come into their community with food, ice or any other supplies -- until today, when we arrived with pet food. And they are in disbelief that we keep coming back every day to see if they and their animals are doing OK, and that today we’ve actually brought pet food!

I made a note to remind myself to write a grateful letter to Hill’s when I get home. I want them to know how much this delivery has meant to the people and pets of coastal Chambers County.

It was another long day for the Red Star Team, but we were happy knowing that the residents now have several days worth of pet food, so they can care for their animals and concentrate on getting through the next week with one less worry on their minds.

Thursday, Sept. 18

We continued our animal search-and-rescue efforts and returned to Oak Island, sweeping it again to make sure there weren’t any additional animals in need, and to check on the residents and their pets to make sure they’re OK.

We brought our air-conditioned horse trailer along. As we rescue animals in distress, our mobile units transfer them to the trailer, where they are housed in cooler conditions until we can take them to the emergency animal shelter in White’s Park, just outside of Anahuac.

After re-checking Oak Island, we conducted sweeps on Smith Point, White Heron Lane and Double Bayou. Smith Point and White Heron both took a devastating hit from the storm. We saw more areas where the houses are gone, and all that’s left is splintered timber or nothing at all. In most of these areas, we see animals running loose. There is no fresh water for them -- everything is contaminated by saltwater from the storm surge. And, unless there are residents nearby who have remained or returned and are caring for their neighbors’ animals, most of these guys haven’t had any food to eat for days.

Heading back from Smith Point, we were flagged down by a TV news crew: A mother dog with 5 puppies are on the highway! Our Red Star team jumped out and quickly began to direct them away from the cars passing by. The dogs headed back for their house, where we gathered them up and safely put them in crates. It appeared that the homeowners had been there recently -- food had been left out, and a couple of smaller dogs were locked inside the house. Concerned that the mama dog and her pups would end up on the highway again and get injured or killed, we decided to take them to the emergency shelter. We left a note on the door of the house, letting the owners know why we took the dogs and where they could pick them up. We also set bowls of food and fresh water inside an open window for the dogs that were locked inside, and we would check on them again tomorrow.

Sadly, as we worked our way down the bay, we saw many dead animals: dogs, cattle, alligators and smaller wildlife that were caught in the path of the storm surge.

The good news, however, is that today we rescued 2 cats and 16 dogs that were wandering without food or water. When we find stray animals, we always check with the neighbors in the area to ensure that the pets’ owners are not around to care for them. Assured that they really need our help, we coax these hungry animals in with a little food, place them in crates and then into the cool trailer. Then it’s off to the emergency animal shelter, where they will be fed and watered and get some welcome rest and medical treatment, if needed.

The Red Star team returned to Beaumont after doing a quick check of the small towns of Winnie and Stowell. Here, people are home and cleaning up, and their animals are safe and happy.

It was good to see our home base again after a long, long day. We are staged here with our “bosses” from the Texas Animal Health Commission. These folks have been fabulous to work with, and their dedication to the safety and recovery of their beloved state and the citizens of Gulf Coast Texas is just wonderful to see. We also enjoy the company of the Texas National Guard. They come over at the end of the day to visit and “talk animals” with us.

One of the Guardsmen asked if we could do a welfare check on someone who has two cats and is physically unable to take care of them right now. Without electricity or running water, this resident’s situation is difficult. We drove to her house and found the cats in need of food and water. We checked them out, provided food and fresh water, and made sure they were OK. He was extremely grateful. But for us, this is what we’re here we do. He has his job, taking care of the residents, and we have ours, taking care of their companion animals. Together, we make a good team, helping people and their pets in the aftermath of Ike.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

American Humane Association was asked to provide animal search-and-rescue support to the new emergency animal shelter being set up by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) near Anahuac in Chambers County. The county, which borders Galveston County on the water side, was hit extremely hard by the hurricane. This morning we delivered four electrical generators to the new emergency shelter for TXSART and began our animal search-and-rescue operations.

We spent the afternoon doing sweeps of Oak Island -- a little locality on the water that took the brunt of the storm. On the edge of the water, where we worked today, the storm literally scraped houses away. Even our seasoned Red Star responders who have worked in the aftermath of many hurricanes said they have rarely seen destruction and devastation on this level. Many residents evacuated, but not all took their pets with them. One woman reported that her family came back today to what was left of their home and had to take their dog off the roof of their house -- where she had been stranded since the storm hit.

We rescued dogs and cats that had been left behind without owners and took them to the emergency shelter. We rescued one dog that had been stranded on an outside deck with no food, water or protection from the elements. We talked to the few residents who were just returning today (to find their houses totally destroyed) about their needs for dog food, cat food and water over the next few days. We will perform a sweep of this same town tomorrow and also cover the area to the south and southeast, which apparently is just as devastated.

We will continue to work in this area for at least 2 to 3 more days, rescuing dogs, cats, goats and other animals. And we are supplementing the emergency shelter at White’s Park with the 50 crates we brought with us from American Humane’s headquarters in Denver.

We returned to our base in Beaumont late this evening and will be back out at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to continue our search-and-rescue efforts.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

Today was a very busy day for the American Humane Association Red Star Team. We were up early, anxious to see what our assignments would be from TXSART. And it didn’t take long to find out -- after an early morning briefing with our TAHC/TXSART liaison, Dwayne, we were tasked to conduct four separate assessments. Team 1, which was Valerie Schomburg and I, were to cover all of northern Orange County. Team 2, Kerri Burns and Rollin McIntosh, were to cover the area west of Beaumont through Jefferson County. Team 3, Tracy Reis and Manny Maciel, and Team 4, Diane Robinson and Barb Davis, would cover all of Hardin County.

You may wonder why we take the time to do assessments -- instead of rescues -- when people and animals may be in distress in the first days after a disaster. Well, the reason is that knowing where the need is greatest allows us to put the right resources in the right places sooner. While everyone on our team is just itching to get out there and rescue animals, you first have to determine where the needs are most urgent and what resources are required to meet those needs. It would be a waste of time and effort to send a lot of people and equipment to an area that turns out to have little or no need, when another area, whose situation is not yet known, may be in dire distress.

The good news is that we found Hardin and Orange Counties to be in fair shape. Homes have wind damage, few have electricity, and there are a good many trees down everywhere. But we found that most of the people have returned home and were out in their yards cleaning up -- with their dogs beside them! With the cloud of property damage and the loss of personal items hanging over the heads of so many people, seeing the many happy dogs having an unexpected “holiday” with their families was a bright spot on this day.

Kerri’s Team 2, however, did find large areas of flooding. A good many cattle and horses are wandering loose, but they are being fed and watered by responders. Team 2 also found a white dog lying in the road near a blockade -- where it has apparently been staying for several days. Dehydrated and sunburned, it was in need of urgent care. Kerri called it in to the Southeastern Texas Humane Society for immediate pickup. A team came and took the dog back for veterinary care and a much cooler resting place, where she can begin to recover from her long ordeal.

Our team also performed a welfare check on a dog that was reported to have been left tethered to a tree for several days with no food and water. Manny and Barb found that he was being fed by a neighbor -- but was in need of fresh drinking water. Our team brought his bucket back to the Rescue Rig, scrubbed it clean and filled it with fresh water. When he saw the bowl brimming with clean water, this was one happy dog! He drank his fill. We were glad to help and thanked the neighbor for keeping an eye on him and feeding him for the past several days while his owners were evacuated.

This evening we received news that a couple of areas seem to be in distress and need emergency sheltering to be set up for animals that are still loose after the hurricane. There also is a need for an animal search-and-rescue team to go in. We hope to assist with those efforts beginning tomorrow.

Monday, Sept. 15

Kerri and I were up bright and early and headed to Beaumont to meet the rest of the team and the Rescue Rig. We will be staged there with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) personnel directing the local response. Our friends from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the ASPCA are also staged at this location. It’s only been a few days since we said goodbye to them in Louisiana, following Hurricane Gustav.

Upon our arrival in Beaumont, we were tasked with making an assessment of Port Arthur. Kerri and I drove south to assess the needs of the town and its animal control shelter. We had no sooner begun when we spied the prettiest little golden retriever, obviously alone and scared and confused. Kerri walked toward her and whistled. The little “golden girl” ran to Kerri and squeezed between her feet -- looking up at her as if to say, “Oh, thank goodness someone is going to help me here!” She is obviously a loved and cared for puppy -- about 18 months old. She has collar on but no tags. We asked the neighbors if they knew her -- about a quarter of the people seem to be back -- and all advised that she isn’t one of the neighborhood dogs. So possibly she was frightened by the storm and has covered a lot of ground to end up here, lost, confused, hungry and thirsty on Dallas Street. She is just the sweetest dog. She rode with us while we visited the animal control shelter, where Anthony, the Animal Control Supervisor, gave us a tour of the shelter and its hurricane damage: roof torn off in places, water damage to his office and computers, no electricity, no running water. The dogs in his kennels are growing short on food, and he’s going to need some help. We promised to report his needs, and soon help will be heading his way from TAHC and TXSART.

He also agreed to let us take the little golden girl with us and place her with Southeast Texas Humane Society. They will take good care of her and, hopefully, her family can be found and reunited with her.

Ike has really done a lot of damage here. We’ve seen lots of houses and buildings torn up by wind. Downed trees and limbs are everywhere. We even saw a large flashing sign on either side of the road that warned “House in Road.” Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was -- a house had floated away and came to rest in the middle of the road!

Sunday, Sept. 14

Here we go again... American Humane Association’s Red Star Team is deploying in response to Hurricane Ike. We barely had a few days of rest from Hurricane Gustav when the call for assistance came in from Texas. But this is hurricane season, and this is what we do.

We packed our bags and equipment and headed out. Tracy Reis, our Animal Emergency Services program manager, and Diane Robinson, Animal Emergency Services instructor, loaded up an F-350 pickup truck and horse trailer with crates, another boat and assorted gear, and started driving to Beaumont, Texas. Our Rescue Rig, with Connor Michael at the wheel, also headed to Beaumont. We began deploying a contingent of our Red Star animal search-and-rescue team tomorrow to do whatever TXSART needs us to do to help the animals affected by the hurricane.

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