Among the millions of lives disrupted by Hurricane Harvey were Texas’ dogs. As local shelters overflow with rescued or displaced pets, animal organizations across the country –- including Iowa City — have opened their kennel doors to dogs from the Lone Star State.
Last week, 65 dogs collected from five Houston shelters were relocated to volunteer centers across Iowa. The dogs were brought from Texas to Des Moines by AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport, a nonprofit organization headquarted in De Soto, Iowa. The Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center accepted eight of the displaced dogs.
“AHeinz57 and shelters around the state came together and asked, ‘How can we help?’” said Liz Ford, the center’s supervisor. “We said, ‘Let’s empty their shelters.’ That’s one thing we can do.”
All of the new arrivals were already in Houston shelters before Harvey made landfall on August 25. The dogs were removed from shelters to make room for pets rescued during or after Harvey who may yet be reclaimed by owners returning home in the wake of the storm.
The Iowa City center will often accept pets from other Iowa shelters, but the last time they took in out-of-state animals was after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Limited staff, space and resources make such transfers difficult, but Ford said events as devastating as Harvey mobilize the community to act.
“Volunteerism was huge from the start,” Ford said. “If we didn’t have the response we’ve had from the community, we couldn’t do this. They really stepped up with donations.”
The center announced the impending intake on August 31, and called for monetary donations as well as wire dog crates, towels, sheets, blankets, dog treats, toys and dog food. They’ve received enough donations to crowd the hallway in the back half of the center, and no longer have a need for cages or food.
The greatest remaining need? Adopters. When dogs find homes, more space and resources become available to the remaining occupants.
The center was originally planning to take 20 Texas dogs, but only eight ended up needing shelter. Still, the eight medium-to-large dogs — in addition to the 20 dogs currently housed at the shelter — were enough to fill the kennels, and then some. Two dogs are currently in cages in the meeting room; another dog is living in the room usually used for meet-and-greets between pooches and prospective owners.
But Ford hopes these overflow spaces won’t be needed for long. The new dogs will be spayed and neutered on Wednesday (visitors hoping to meet the Texas dogs should wait until Thursday), and will be ready for adoption soon after.
Doodle, the first Texas dog to be placed on the adoption floor on Saturday, has already attracted applications from two interested families.
Others may take more time to find the home that’s right for them. Two otherwise healthy dogs tested positive for heartworms, for which treatment can take more than two months and cost $400-500. Rather than pass these costs on the dogs’ future owners, Ford said the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center believes in nursing animals to health before adopting them out, so they are “set up for success” in their new life. However, this treatment will rely heavily on donations.
Two other dogs are experiencing heightened emotional stress and require special attention. Having traveled hundreds of miles, settling into a new shelter — particularly one full of other dogs — can be particularly hard for some animals. Treating their anxiety will be an ongoing process, Ford said.
But peering down the hallway lined with bags of dog food, garbage bags full of towels and blankets, stacks of dogs beds and boxes of canned food, Ford said she has no doubt the community will continue to support their efforts.
“In times of need, people step up,” she said. “This community loves their pets. They’re generous and believe in the work we do. We have a reputation as a progressive, forward-thinking, positive place where people think outside the box. The community is responsive to that kind of culture.”
“Our first answer to everything is, ‘Yes, we can.’”
Want to help the shelter? Let us count the ways:
There are 28 dogs from Texas and Iowa that need homes, as well as 120 cats and kittens (half are in foster care), and several rodents and reptiles. All adoptions help the effort, as they free up resources and staff/volunteer time – not to mention provide the animals with a new family.
Visit the shelter’s website for more information on adoption. The Iowa City Animal Center is located at 3910 Napoleon Ln and open between 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Most of the Texas dogs will be available to adopt after Sept. 7.
MAKE A DONATION
Funds are needed to provide heartworm treatment to the two affected dogs, as well as to purchase supplies. Gift cards for stores such as Hy-Vee or Petco are also appreciated. Donations may be made in person at the center, or online at the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation website.
Volunteers are needed to clean cages and care for animals. More volunteers mean more opportunity for dogs to socialize with humans and get outside to stretch their legs. Volunteer orientation sessions for September are filling up fast. If you’re interested in donating your time, call Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Bragg at (319) 887-6083.
Some dogs benefit from temporary housing; it can give them a break from the high-stress environment of the shelter, and foster parents can provide helpful feedback about the animal’s personality and special needs. To learn more about foster care, go online or call (319) 887-6083.
The shelter is stocked up on dog food, but is still asking for:
• Durable dog toys
• Clean blankets
• Clean, large towels
• Wash cloths
• Dawn dish soap
• Non-scented liquid bleach
• Soft dog treats
• Kuranda dog beds
• Dog and cat nail clippers
Keep an eye on the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center Facebook page for updates.
HOLD A FUNDRAISER
Fundraise through your workplace, student organization or neighborhood. Organize a towel drive. Distribute lists of needed materials to shoppers at local stores, with a box to collect the donated goods. For more ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (319) 541-6390.
SPREAD THE WORD
Have friends or family who might be interested in adopting? Recommend the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center or another shelter — “Adopt, don’t shop,” as the mantra goes — and share information on social media.