Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, shelters in Texas and along the Gulf Coast began making room for the thousands of displaced pets they anticipated. One Louisiana shelter, for instance, shipped 60 dogs to New Jersey to make room for incoming canines.
"All the animals that we have here...were going to end up being euthanized to make room. I mean, that's the reality on a daily basis," said Robyn Urman with Pet ResQ, the New Jersey organization that accepted the dogs. "But the amounts of animals that are coming in — the influx is just scary crazy."
Since Harvey hit, Austin Pets Alive!, the largest animal shelter in the country, has admitted more than 2,000 animals to its facility, according to Mother Nature Network. As shelters grow more crowded, animal advocates fear workers may opt to euthanize cats and dogs in order to free up space and resources. A new Change.org petition directed at Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling for 30-day moratorium on euthanasia of animals, to allow enough time for the human victims of Harvey to reunite with their four-legged family members.
"There is no current legislation protecting displaced animals for longer than the typical three-day hold time at government animal control shelters during a disaster — meaning an animal coming into a county or municipal or any animal shelter could be legally euthanized after only 72 hours," the petition states.
The petition says displaced animals are being directed to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HSPCA), which it calls a "kill shelter." The HSPCA fired back against similar accusations earlier this month with a statement published by ABC 13:
The Houston SPCA has been the subject of a vicious and false rumor that claims that we are euthanizing the very animals we are currently rescuing. This is unequivocally false. Our teams on are on the ground working tirelessly to rescue, care for and reunite pets with owners displaced by this catastrophe
Poor record-keeping appears to be complicating the matter. Animals are being relocated out of town, according to the petition, hindering their rightful guardians' ability to even locate them.
"Rescue groups cannot even plan to save these animals or transfer them to safety or to fosters if they are rushed to euthanasia in just three days," wrote members of the Go Team Rescue Group, which started the petition.
MNN.com recommends several resources for located missing pets, including the Hurricane Harvey All Lost & Found Pets group, the photo directory site PetHarbor, and the facial recognition shelter-search app Finding Rover.
"With a disaster of this magnitude there are still many stranded, homeless, and devastated people and families who were separated from their pets due to the flood waters, destroyed homes, and the rescue process," the petition states. "Numerous people are still without cars, transportation or the means to locate their pets."
Visit change.org to sign the petition.