Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rita report from Huntsville, TX

As promised - here's my Texas aunt & uncle's hurricane story. Call me biased, but dang I ended up with a good family. I loved reading this. A couple of sad things, a couple of people being stupid, but a whole lot of people reaching out to help each other (and their pets) - gotta love it.


Hi, all!

Katrina did not effect us much. We did, however, have several thousand evacuees staying in little Huntsville's churches and hotels for a while. Don't know what happened to their animals other than what we and you read in the papers. Gradually, though, the evacuees moved on to other places.

Rita was a whole different story. Huntsville was designated an evacuee center and thousands arrived again...this time many in their own vehicles as well as on buses. And they brought their pets with them. Animals weren't allowed in the churches and other shelters so they rounded up all the pets at our Walker County Fair Grounds. We had over 300 dogs, almost as many cats, half a dozen or so horses, some cows, a few goats, over 20 birds, some sugar gliders, 2 turtles and 1 spider! Our humane society and other local volunteers took care of this Noah's Ark.

A week ago Thursday, R&M & M's two daughters (24 and 28) (Bonnie's note - cousin of mine & family, Houston area) came up with 6 cats to weather the storm. Took them 12 hours to make the normally 1.5 hour trip. We finished making the place storm ready, got out propane stove and propane lantern plus all the flashlights. They brought up bottled water and we filled buckets and the tub with our well water. By Saturday, when it was clear the storm was going east of Huntsville, they all left and got home in 2 hours.The wind was still gusting to 60 - 70 mph, and bringing down a lot of small branches and one big branch. There were reports of power outages here but our power was still on.On Sunday we went to church and afterwards went to the animal shelter to see what was going on.Found them already full with evacuee's animals and sending every one else to the Fair Grounds where the bulk of the evacuees were being sheltered. Also they said help was needed out there so I went there.

I found a very tired group of our members and other volunteers dealing with hundreds of cats and dogs in one of the smaller buildings. There were well over a thousand people camping in the main building.

With little or no pre-planning our people did a wonderful job of keeping the pets in their cages, feeding,watering, cleaning them and not the least keeping track of who their owners were. The shelter and citizens loaned cages to the effort for those who had no cages. The bigger, and the less friendly, dogs were put in pens outside undr a large roof the normally held sheep, goats and similar animals for the Fair. The man in charge of the whole operation did a great job of getting all the food and supplies that were needed and they had a kitchen set up to feed everyone. Most all the evacuees were very appreciative of the help they were getting but as usual there were some bad apples in the bunch. On. Monday a contingent of 12 or more Texas National Guard were called in and that quieted everyone down.

Meanwhile some people were leaving and some still coming in from Beaumont and other Texas and La. coastal cities, some with pets.

We worked there from 7AM to 7PM or more Monday, Tuesday , and Wednesday. We were told Tuesday, there was to be a wedding on Saturday and the place had to be emptied by Thursday noon.. Fortunately by then the number of animals was down to about 50. By taking some to the shelter, some to foster homes and having some evacuees pick up their animals and leave, we managed to get every animal out and the building cleaned by 2PM. A number of nice cats and dogs it turned out had no known owners. Some we knew were abandoned and fortunately people stepped up and adopted them. Friday was spent tracking down the names and phone numbers of a few owners who we had reason to think had not abandoned their pets

The problem came about when evacuees without transportation of their own were put on buses to go back home but were not allowed to take their pets on the bus.
Today one of our volunteers and his wife drove my Mazda pickup to Galveston with 4 dogs and 4 cats to their owners.

Love to all!

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