Displaced Pet Owners

Displaced Pet Owners

Local animal shelters offered safety tips Friday for pet owners and contingency plans to take in the pets of coastline evacuees fleeing Hurricane Harvey — and by mid-afternoon, staff and volunteers at Animal Care Services, the Animal Defense League of Texas and the San Antonio Humane Society had followed the same advice for the animals under their care.

Everything that applies to people preparing for a storm also applies to their pets, ACS spokeswoman Lisa Norwood said.

“You have to provide food, water, medical care and shelter,” she said. “All those things become more important during a serious weather event. It makes sense to ensure they are as comfortable as possible as they ride out the storm with you.”

Norwood said residents should bring pets indoors to a garage, utility room or a home itself, not just during rain, but during the entire event. If the garage is the only choice, she said, make sure to set up a fan or some sort of ventilation to offer air circulation.

If you can’t bring pets inside, the city requires their owners to make sure they have adequate shelter — at least three solid walls, a floor elevated above possible standing water and a fourth side, folding or flapping, that an animal can go in and out of. A tarp over a fence or plywood propped against a tree doesn’t count, and ACS officers will cite owners for infractions, Norwood said.

Tethering is still allowed, but has to be humane, with leashes attached to an animal’s collar and not its neck. It’s illegal to tether female dogs in heat.

Animals advocates said pet owners should ensure their pets have a tag, a collar, a microchip or anything that indicates ownership, and those who evacuate also should bring current photos and copies of veterinary records to help identify animals when retrieving them from a shelter.

In 2005, the swift onslaught of Hurricane Katrina left more than 200,000 animals abandoned or turned away from shelters in the New Orleans area, by one estimate. Luckier pets were rescued from storm-ravaged structures by emergency responders. As a result, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help residents with pets in a major disaster.

The Animal Defense League of Texas shelter will wait until Monday to see if there is a need to help transport displaced animals from hurricane-ravaged areas, said Joel McLellan, its operations director. It can deploy a convoy of temperature-controlled vehicles and trailers that can carry more than 40 animals.

ACS is open today and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Norwood said two ACS facilities are already caring for several dozen evacuated dogs and cats. Volunteers are needed at one of them, the shelter on Texas 151, to help with adopting and fostering.

Story re-posted from the My San Antonio News.