Here is where we stand this morning: Hurricane Laura hit the far northeastern part of the Texas coast as well as the coastline of Louisiana. She made landfall as a category 4 near Cameron, Louisiana, and is now a category 1 heading north toward Shreveport, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Track her path here. We are awaiting more information about animals and people who may be trapped or in need of evacuation. We know at least one human fatality was reported, there are widespread power outages and damage, and search and rescue is now underway. Storm surge was less than predicted at landfall but is still predicted to continually rise as far as 40 miles inland and potentially 15-20 feet along the immediate coast near, and to the right, of landfall.
Until late last night, our team was working to move animals from the areas we expected to be hit hardest, such as Port Arthur. We are so grateful that we have been able to build interstate and Texas-wide relationships thanks to efforts made by Maddie’s™ Lifesaving Academy and American Pets Alive!. Their quick action has made it possible to swiftly move animals directly from the impacted areas to their new rescue group/shelter for adoption. This takes a lot of work, persistence, and communication, but is still preferable than setting up a warehouse here to house hundreds of animals and then send them to their final destination as we did during Hurricane Harvey.
As of right now (and that could change), we are going to continue that effort until it is not enough. We will not be deploying as a large group to that area because of the distance and our understanding of the amount of damage. We are still looking at sending members of our team, if necessary, to help triage animals and directly transport if needed. We will let you know what the situation looks like as the day goes on and deployed rescue teams reveal the extent of damage.
Thank you for supporting our rescue and outreach efforts. At this time, we are in need ofdog and cat fosters, and, if you are able to give, donations. We appreciate the continued support.
At Austin Pets Alive!, we strive to stay loyal to our roots of filling the gaps that exist in sheltering in order to prevent unnecessary death in shelters. We do that every day by filling the gaps in a government-funded shelter’s lifesaving efforts – in Austin and within so many other shelters in Texas. In order to extend these lifesaving practices outside of Central Texas, we provide hands-on training and mentorship through our education and outreach division, American Pets Alive!, that doesn’t exist anywhere else so that shelters can fill their own lifesaving gaps. We filled lifesaving gaps before and after Hurricane Harvey by emptying shelters in the immediate vicinity of the hurricane’s expected landfall, then going to Katy/Houston to help provide safe haven (a la tents in a parking lot) for animals found in flood waters (because all the local shelters had been submerged by the flooding).
Over the past 6 months, since COVID-19 struck, APA! and AmPA! have been hard at work trying to fill the gaps in the entire shelter industry so that it could morph from just animal services to a Human Animal Support Services model, a model where animals are decentralized to prevent human COVID-19 spread, animal organizations can prepare for the tidal wave of evictions coming, and all people, in every neighborhood, play a part in lifesaving for a truly equitable, community-wide lifesaving plan.
Then entered Hurricane Laura. Over the past few days, our APA!/AmPA! teams have been moving hundreds of animals from shelters in the possible landfall path to shelters farther inland, as well as taking animals into our care. This is all done in order to prevent animals being stuck in shelters in the case that people can’t access the facility or in the case that it floods/is destroyed. As recently as the previous few years, that need to empty in preparation was being filled by mass euthanasia. The good news is that we have seen a major shift in government-funded shelters from silently killing, thinking no one would help, to proactively reaching out for help. That has made our job a lot easier in terms of helping, and it’s saving tons of lives.
We know that today, August 26th, there will be people leaving their pets behind as they evacuate, standing in line to leave their pet at the local shelter at the last minute or turning their pets loose hoping they can find higher ground. We plan to work our tails off today to keep moving as many animals to safe shelters as possible. We are thankful that the City of Austin, which is helping to evacuate Galveston, is committed to lodging evacuees with their pets; but we know not all people will take advantage of that and that there are many more cities in the path of Laura. We are going to need big support from fosters as we scramble today for the last minute push.
Tonight, we will have to stop all that action and wait. That is the hardest part, because we don’t know how bad the destruction will be, we don’t know where all she will hit, and we don’t know how many animals will suffer.
Tomorrow, we will determine how to fill the gaps. We will keep taking animals that are stranded in flooded shelters/rescues or who are surrendered in the aftermath by their owners (we need true strays to stay local so they can be reunited with their owners). We hope, and believe that, national organizations will be on the ground the same day to help get animals to safety from wherever they are stranded. We also remain hopeful that local shelters will be able to take in strays.
We hope all this happens like it should. But if it doesn’t, we will determine the best way for us to fill gaps and act quickly. That might look like us driving back and forth if close enough (generally a couple of hours), bringing supplies there and animals back. That might look like us setting up another parking lot tent compound to take in animals from the flooded areas found by search and rescue. That might look like us evacuating shelters directly. That might look like us helping to kennel owned animals in empty kennels at TLAC for owners who evacuated to Austin.
The bottomline is that we know we are lucky; and therefore, we know we have to help. We know we are able to fill the gaps. We just hope we have your help in whichever way it is needed.
Today, the community’s help is needed in donations to support the many animals already coming in our doors, fostering to keep making room for more, supply purchases or donations and being ready to volunteer for whatever happens tomorrow.