Chicago shelters and rescue groups are opening their doors as Houston animal shelters try to clear space for all the pets stranded by Hurricane Harvey.
The groups are taking animals, mostly dogs and cats, that were already in Houston-area shelters before the storm hit Friday. That will free space in Houston for animals rescued from the flood zone. They can stay in the area and hopefully be reunited with their owners.
The Anti-Cruelty Society said it expects to receive its first animals in the next few days and will try to place them in homes here.
“We are actively recruiting,’’ said spokeswoman Colette Bradley. “People are willing to help and it’s so fantastic. Offering their home up is a wonderful way to help the pets directly impacted from the storm in Houston.’’
The organization is working “on the ground’’ in Texas with several agencies, including Wings of Rescue, which airlifts animals to safety, and the Humane Society of the United States.
It also needs volunteers in Chicago to move the dogs and cats from the airport to the Anti-Cruelty Society's River North facility, at 169 W. Grand Ave. After a health check, it will be time to find homes.
The organization is “especially” looking for families able to take care of larger dogs, she said. “They need their exercise."
Bradley was not sure exactly how many animals it will receive but said the facility could accept hundreds.
“We’re not anticipating that we can’t handle it,’’ Bradley said. “We always have space."
The capacity is about 700 animals, but there are usually 200 to 300 animals -- “small mammals” -- living at the facility at one time. “It goes in cycles," Bradley said.
PAWS Chicago also is working with shelters in Houston, according to founder Paula Fasseas, who plans to fly to Houston on Saturday.
PAWS hasn't gotten any animals from Texas yet, but they received 40 dogs Tuesday night from a shelter in Nashville that wanted to free up space to accept animals from Texas, Fasseas said.
The organization has three vans, with volunteers and medical teams, “ready to go’’ to Texas. But many areas are still dangerous and Fasseas said she doesn't have a time line yet.
PAWS hopes to help as many as 100 pets, many of which will likely have had owners that, because of their flooded homes, cannot take care of them.
The rest would be pets that were in shelters before Harvey hit. They will not be taking any pets whose owners are looking for them.
“We could easily bring in from 60 to 100. We’ve got the space for that," Fasseas said. "They need help and we’re going to continue. This is going to be a huge influx. When these waters go down, we’re anticipating a lot of homeless animals and people giving up pets."
PAWS has two adoption centers in Illinois, a main facility in Lincoln Park and another in the north suburbs.
PAWS also has a medical center on Chicago’s South Side, where the pets will go first to be examined. “Right now we are setting up crates, like a triage area,’’ she said.
Many of the dogs and cats could have ringworm or heartworm, which will need to be cured before they can be adopted. They also will be vaccinated and sprayed or neutered.
Those interested in volunteering and fostering can sign up by visiting their website.
“This is going to be a long-term partnership,'' Fasseas said. "We anticipate they’ll be needing our help for a while and we’ll be there to support them.”
Story re-posted from the Chicago Tribune.
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