TORONTO – Next week, a small team of Canadian volunteers will get into two vans, drive for two days to flood-ravaged Houston, pick up a group of rescue dogs from overwhelmed shelters, and head home.
Nicole Simone, who runs Redemption Dogs, an animal advocacy group based in Toronto, said four volunteers will leave the city next Wednesday to help an animal shelter in Houston that has seen an influx of canines after Hurricane Harvey hit the city.
The shelter needs to free up space and find homes for its animals because it keeps rescuing more and more dogs, she said.
“A lot of the rescues lost their property,” Simone said. “They’re all flooded out. They’re all overwhelmed.”
Simone has a friend who runs Hot Mess Pooches, a shelter in Houston, and has been following the organization’s efforts over the past few days. The shelter had to rescue 40 dogs on Wednesday alone, she said.
“It is really upsetting, so we thought we could help out, even in a small way,” Simone said.
Simone spoke to a friend in Toronto, who said he was willing to drive down to Houston, and then found two others who wanted to head down to the U.S. with her. She has also started an online fundraiser to help support the group’s efforts.
The Canadian volunteers will only be rescuing dogs that do not have owners, said Simone, who already has a handful of rescue organizations in Ontario lined up to take the dogs in and find foster homes for them until they are adopted.
Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas last week and left large swaths covered in water. At least 31 people have died and emergency officials expect that number to climb in the coming days.
More than 1,000 homes in the state have been destroyed, close to 50,000 were damaged and over 32,000 people were in shelters. About 24,000 National Guard troops have been called in to help.
The situation is also dire for animals.
Rescue organizations from across the United States have mobilized to help deal with the fallout from the hurricane. Countless animals have escaped, have been abandoned or are strays that have been caught up in the flood.
The Humane Society of the United States is co-ordinating a massive effort to ship dogs out on planes to various parts of the country.
In many cases, people are bringing their furry friends with them as they evacuate. On Wednesday, more than 500 people took shelter at a bowling alley in nearby Beaumont, Texas, along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey.
— with files from the Associated Press