How To Help Stray Animals Survive Hurricane Harvey

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As Hurricane Harvey storms through the Gulf of Mexico, residents in areas along its targeted path are preparing for intense rainfall and flooding. Meteorologists expect the hurricane to strengthen to Category 3 (Hurricane Sandy was a Category 2, for comparison) by the time it hits the South Texas and Louisiana coast. While humans have the option to hunker down indoors or flee, stray animals do not. But there are ways to help stray pets and wild animals survive Hurricane Harvey.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, abandoned dogs and their offspring roamed New Orleans, a city that already had a high population of wild dogs before the hurricane. Pet owners evacuating in a rush had assumed they would return home soon enough. Hurricane Katrina resulted in more than 600,000 animals dead or stranded in the end. Even the smaller-scale Hurricane Sandy trapped animals on the East Coast, requiring rescue operations and emergency care for hundreds of animals.

Now Hurricane Harvey has the potential to leave the next devastating and permanent mark on homeless animals. If you live in an area where Hurricane Harvey will strike, take precaution by bolstering your home or preparing your escape plan if an evacuation order has been issued in your city or council. If you also want to help stray animals, the sometimes forgotten victim in natural disasters, here's what experts advise.

Prepare Shelters For Feral Cat Colonies

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While a stray is a domestic animal that has lost its home, a feral animal is one that was born in the wild and lives independently. Feral animals are more likely to resist being handled by humans.

For cats, you can set up a shelter on higher ground so they won't get swept away in a flood. Tie the shelter securely to a permanent structure and stockpile extra dry food in a covered feeding station. The Humane Society provides more details on how to protect cat colonies.

Friendly cats and kittens that are still young enough to be socialized can be safely captured and taken to a safe place.

Gently Coax Dogs To Safety

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If you are trying to approach a stray dog that responds with aggression or fear, be patient. Try coaxing the animal with food and gentle commands into your car so you can take it home or to the animal shelter. If the dog appears to pose any threat of biting, note its location and contact animal control. If possible, stay at the scene until help arrives so you can assist them in locating the stray. A dog wandering the streets isn't necessarily feral or abandoned, and a shelter can check if the animal is chipped with the owner's contact info.

Ease The Burden On Overcrowded Shelters By Fostering A Homeless Animal

As rescuers prepare to bring animals into already crowded shelters, these shelters are desperately seeking foster homes. Regina Dansatoare, an animal rescuer who works in the Rio Grande Valley, gave her contact details to Texas TV station KRGV for anyone interested in fostering or adopting a dog. "In preparation for the hurricane, they're going to have to euthanize several of these dogs," she said.

Austin Pets Alive!, an organization helping shelters in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey, is also urging people to help clear the shelters and has online applications for foster animal adoption.

Donate To Your Local Animal Shelter

If you are unable to foster an animal yourself, make a financial donation to an animal shelter in areas that will be affected by Hurricane Harvey, or offer any much-needed resources like crates, trash bags, pet food, and pet beds.

Take Action After The Storm Has Passed

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The potential carnage left behind after Hurricane Harvey passes could include massive flooding and stranded strays. Check with organizations operating rescue efforts if you can be of any help. If you spot a stranded animal, don't assume someone else will come and take care of it. You can be resourceful like the Louisiana man who used an air mattress to ferry dogs to higher ground.

Unfortunately, hurricanes can exacerbate the spread of infectious diseases, including ones transmitted by cats and dogs, so proceed with caution. If you're uncomfortable or unable to approach the animal, contact an animal rescue team.

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