(DISASTER RELIEF/ANIMAL RESCUE) Hurricane Harvey caused devastation for countless people and their pets throughout Texas and Louisiana. Luckily, over 300 shelters and animal rescues all over the the country have stepped in to help.

A man carries his dog through Hurricane Harvey floodwater in search for dry land. Photo Credit: David J. Philip

Before the tropical storm hit, rescue groups banded together to clear local shelters of existing animals to make room for those displaced by the storm. That way, incoming pets can stay closer to home in hopes that their families will quickly find them upon returning home.

Within hours of Hurricane Harvey striking Texas, Wings of Rescue, based in Northern California, coordinated massive airlifts to transport animals to a number of out-of-state animal shelters, and there have been non-stop flights ever since.

“We learned a lot since Katrina and just wanted not to repeat those mistakes,” Wings of Rescue President and CEO Ric Browde said. “We set up a strategy before the storm so we were ready and now you’re seeing it in action.”

The charity organization chartered multiple planes into the disaster zone to relocate existing shelter animals and temporarily board displaced pets on dry land in states like Washington, Colorado, and California.

Wings of Rescue volunteers transport animals to safety amid Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: Wings of Rescue

“We are proud to be working hand in hand with two fabulous organizations, the Greatergood and the Humane Society of the United State’s emergency placement partner team to not only transport these pets but make sure that they are documented, vetted and that they end up in empty shelters from where they can be quickly adopted,” said Wings of Rescue in a statement. 

Within the first two weeks, Wings of Rescue flew 17 missions and saved over 1,500 cats and dogs.

Wings of Rescue transported thousands of pets within just the first two weeks of Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts. Photo Credit: Wings of Rescue

Each flight costs thousands of dollars ($100 per pet, on average), and the organization relies solely on generous donations like yours to fly it’s life-saving missions.

“As long as the money keeps coming in, we will keep doing the flights,” explained Founder Cindy Smith.

Wings of Rescue’s hurricane relief flights will be continued daily for as long as their help is needed.

In its history, the group of volunteer pilots has successfully flown more than 26,000 pets from high intake and high-kill shelters to no-kill shelters in other states, and ultimately to new forever homes.

HSUS members watch as the last dogs are loaded onto a plane. Photo Credit: Darren Abate/AP Images

Austin Pets Alive!, the largest animal shelter in the country, has also played a pivotal role in helping animals impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The shelter has served as a command center for animal rescues, caring for more than 2,500 animals since the storm hit.

“The capacity has expanded so much that we actually had to hire temporary help to continue caring for the animals,” the APA!’s director of communications, Mary Mattia explained.

Austin Pets Alive! typically houses 160 dogs at the shelter, but that number has risen to 240.

“We are not interested in adopting out animals who have a potential owner,” says Mary Heerwald, director of communications. “Any lost, stray, or any situation where an animal might have a potential owner, we are committed to reuniting them with their family. To us, first and foremost, the goal is to ensure these animals live. Also deeply important to us is ensuring that dogs and cats who have families go home to them.”

Pets are safe in a temporary shelter after being rescued. Photo Credit: Austin Pets Alive!

To help manage the scale of this effort, not only did the organization recruit fosters while encouraging people to adopt, but they also opened two temporary shelters–one in Austin and one in Katy/Houston, where the Houston Pets Alive! is also supporting adoption and foster efforts.

“We knew that every kennel we opened up was another dog’s life that we would save from down there,” said Matthew Mattia.

A volunteer from Austin Pets Alive! cradles a rescued puppy in Houston. Photo Credit: Austin Pets Alive!

Without these organizations’ tireless efforts to clear local shelters, personnel would be facing difficult choices, euthanizing healthy adoptable animals to make way for evacuees and strays.

Transporting these animals quickly and efficiently is critical to their survival, as well as their return to their loving guardians or placement into new loving homes.

As with other major disasters, it’s a long-term recovery effort for humans and animals alike, and getting back to normal will take years in the hardest-hit spots.

Those affected face an uphill battle to rebuild their lives, but volunteers continue to work day by day, trying to find forever homes, pet by pet.

Donate to Help Hurricane Harvey Animal Victims

Global Animal Foundation continues to accept donations for Wings of Rescue and Austin Pets Alive! to help animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. With countless animals left unclaimed and in need of care, these disaster relief programs need your help more than ever.

Without the help of concerned Global Animals, these organizations are unable to make such a strong difference and help these animals affected by natural disasters. Thank you for your generosity on behalf of the lost, injured, and frightened animals. Your compassion in action and support of Global Animal Foundation is saving the lives of animals in crisis.