Published September 13, 2008
Noah would feel right at home at the Houston SPCA, which has taken in about a thousand animals from communities enduring a major beating from Hurricane Ike.
In addition to hundreds of dogs and cats, the shelter collected horses, ducks, goats, iguanas and even a bear as part of its menagerie in the days leading up to the storm — which crashed ashore before dawn Saturday.
Houston SPCA President Patricia Mercer compared the shelter to the Biblical ark. She said the rescue center is housing the Galveston Island Humane Society animals as well as those from the Brazoria County and Bay Area SPCA in Galveston County. Some of the staff from the other organizations accompanied the critters to Houston.
To prepare for the influx, Houston moved about 300 of its own pets up for adoption to other shelters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and San Antonio and set up an animal rescue hotline. Those needing help with their pets can call 713-861-0161 or toll-free 877-661-0161.
"It's going to be the central point where calls for rescues come to us," Mercer said. "We will be dispatching our folks for the rescue of animals."
Though the building where Mercer's office is located lost power early Saturday and part of her ceiling caved in as Ike tore through town, the structure housing the animals was humming along on a backup generator that she said will provide enough electricity to last through the week.
Thirty-seven staff members from the Houston SPCA stayed with the animals overnight Friday to tend to them.
"As of right now, the animals are OK, but we haven't been able to go outside because it's pretty bad out here," said Meera Nandlal, the Houston SPCA's public relations manager. "As soon as we're able to go outside and check on them, we will."
She said the hotline phone "has been ringing off the hook."
The shelter is housing about 300 dogs, 400 cats, 60 horses and 40 other farm animals. The SPCA also has taken in wildlife including pelicans, falcons, owls, ducks and the bear, which is part of an animal cruelty case.
Smaller pets like guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards and hamsters — and even some baby squirrels the SPCA is nursing — are staying at the center too.
Mercer advised people who see or have animals in need of rescue to call the hotline. She said staff would be prioritizing the rescue efforts and working primarily on "the animals in the greatest danger." Veterinarians are on hand to perform surgeries as needed.
She also warned that there would likely be a flood of strays in the streets because of pets left behind in the storm. Animal control authorities will be taking care of them.
Luckily, help is on the way for the Houston SPCA. Mercer said teams from Colorado animal shelters as well as those from the Los Angeles and Louisiana SPCAs and others around the country are flying in to provide support.