Texas Prepares for Rita

With the Hurricane Rita preparing to make landfall, many pet owners are scrambling to find refuge for their animals. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) in response has placed a list of holding areas for those evacuating the Hurricane's path.  

"We started out with a listing of 180 sites, and now I think it is well over 200 that will accept animals that are evacuating or displaced," said Carla Everett of the Texas Animal Health Commission. The list is available at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us.

"We are just trying to play matchmaker," Everett explained. "We take in calls and try to figure out where the people are headed and their needs, then we try to match those needs."

She said they had just placed a man who had three horses who was evacuating. Even though the TAHC does not serve the needs of companion pets, she said, "There was a person with six cats who was at a bed and breakfast, but they would not allow the cats to stay. I got on the horn and found a vet, my vet actually, that could handle a few more cats. He told me to bring them on.

"For the most part people have to be able to pull their own trailers," said Everett. "There are some listings on our site and the Horse Gazette's (http://www.horsegazette.com/emergency.htm) stating that they can assist with transportation." She was able to match one man who had just purchased a horse who did not have a trailer yet with a listing offering transportation assistance.

The majority of the holding sites are fairgrounds, expo centers, state parks that are equipped to house horses and people, and even Gillespie County and Manor Downs race tracks are accepting animals. Everett has had several people call her who have five acres and are willing to take horses in.

"I've had people as far as Oklahoma calling to say that if people are willing to come that far, they will have a place for them," Everett said. "It's just amazing how many people have come forward to volunteer to help with animals. Even one of our commissioners said that if someone wants to move a bunch of cows, bring them on."

She said that sometimes her job comes down to just offer comfort and practical advice to people. "I had to talk one lady down; sometimes they get so panic-stricken they can't think clearly," Everett said. The lady had severahorses to evacuated, but didn't have a trailer large enough. Everett calmed her down and directed her to sources of help. "She just needed somebody to walk her through it; she just needed some moral support," Everett added.

Texas has waived travel restriction on livestock within the state, citing a greater need to move animals quickly.
The Texas Animal Health Commission has set up an emergency hotline to provide pet owners with information on available shelters by county. The number is 800\550-8242 and operates Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information can be found on their web site at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us.

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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