Health & Environment

AgriLife Agents Shelter 1,000 Animals In Wake Of Hurricane Harvey

September 5, 2017

3 men outside of horse stalls interacting with the horses
AgriLife agents began taking in animals Aug. 25.
By Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M University AgriLife

Donations of time and supplies have come in all types and sizes to the animal shelter and supply point at the fairgrounds in Angleton, but all come with a common feature — caring, empathetic hearts of humans.

That is the sentiment expressed in many ways, both with and without words, as about 1,000 animals of all kinds are being cared for there since Hurricane Harvey unleashed its fury along the Texas coast Aug. 25.

“When we heard the hurricane was coming this way, we started making calls to prepare,” said Jessica Chase, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Brazoria County. “We don’t shelter in place here because it can be unsafe, depending on storm surge.”

Chase, who is managing the facility with alternating relief teams made up of her fellow AgriLife Extension agents from around Texas, is hosting evacuated and rescued horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and a variety of birds. Dogs and cats at the site are managed in cooperation with the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The shelter began taking animals on Aug. 25 from people in areas most likely to flood, Chase said.

“On Saturday (Aug. 26), it went through the roof with the number of animals we were getting in,” Chase said. “The rain was blowing in, but we kept taking the animals. We started calling for people to help go out and get animals to bring here if their owners weren’t able. Our volunteers would drop them off, then go out and get more.”

mini horses

Chase said the facility established an ownership system so each animal is photographed with the owner and numbered to help with when they are “discharged” once the flood waters recede.

One of the biggest issues initially was how to manage space. The fairgrounds are equipped with a variety of covered buildings intended for animals but not with individual stalls. The team of AgriLife Extension personnel and a variety of local people and businesses were able to loan the facility panels, or specialized livestock fencing, to quickly piece together makeshift areas for each animal. The area was further organized by species in different arenas, Chase said.

With more than 1,000 animals housed by owners who evacuated, the team then began receiving word of additional animals that were abandoned or in need of being rescued. Teams of rescuers along with various state and federal agencies continue to assist with rescues, some of which are in areas where animals have been standing in flood waters since the storm.

The animal shelter provided a welcome site from the hurricane’s aftermath for John Barksdale. When forced to evacuate his home in Brazoria as nearby rivers were anticipated to crest at historic levels and cause even more extensive flooding, Barksdale moved his camper to the fairgrounds even though he had no animals in need of shelter. Barksdale remained and provided volunteer assistance.


Continue reading this story by by Kathleen Phillips on AgriLife Today

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