By: Paul Schattenberg
Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, email@example.com
Contact: Dr. Andy Vestal, 979-862-3013, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is supporting community animal issues committees and local emergency management coordinators to set up animal sheltering sites around the state in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey.
“Forecasts have indicated there likely will be from 15-20 inches of rain and there could be record or extreme flooding, with most of the flooding expected in the area between San Antonio and Corpus Christi,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension specialist in emergency management, College Station. “Also, some meteorologists have predicted the storm may possibly change course and move toward the Houston area after it comes inland.”
Vestal said while emergency agencies are working to evacuate and accommodate people, AgriLife Extension is helping set up shelters for the many four-legged animals being displaced by the storm.
“AgriLife Extension personnel are coordinating with the Texas Animal Health Commission to develop a comprehensive list of shelters around the state and the types of animals those shelters can accommodate,” he said. “We are asking that anyone needing to shelter an animal call 2-1-1 for their area.”
Vestal said the 2-1-1 Texas program of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is committed to helping Texas citizens connect with the services they need.
He said AgriLife Extension is currently collaborating on accommodating smaller companion animals but soon will be addressing more of the sheltering need for larger animals, such as livestock.
One of the small-animal shelter sites already set up and taking in animals is in Huntsville.
“We’ve been working with the county’s office of emergency management to take in animals from people sheltering here in Walker County,” said Reggie Lepley, AgriLife Extension agent, Walker County. “The animals we’re taking in are the ones the owners feel will need food and shelter in the event of flooding or other serious weather conditions.”
Lepley said he and others staffing the shelter have been told to “expect anything” from people in that county bringing in their pets.
“We’re not just accommodating cats and dogs… we’re taking in whatever small animals we can to keep them safe,” he said “We’ve done this before and have had people bring in some pretty unusual companion animals.”
In Travis County, accommodations are already available for larger animals at the Travis County Expo Center.
AgriLife Extension agent Mellanie Mickelson has been coordinating with officials to help shelter some of the larger animals in that area.
“There are many shelters in Austin and the surrounding area to accommodate smaller animals, so it looks like most of the animals we’ll be sheltering will be larger,” Mickelson said.
“Right now, we’re expecting four horses and 40 goats, and there likely will be many more animals coming to the expo center over the next three to five days,” she said. “We estimate we have space available to accommodate about 200 animals.”
Vestal said AgriLife Extension will also collaborate with Texas Animal Health Commission to see if and where it will be necessary to set up Animal Supply Points for larger animals such as cattle, horses, pigs, goats and sheep. Members of the agency’s Animal Response Team will work with TAHC to establish locations where animals can get shelter and obtain fresh hay, feed and water.
“Reports from livestock industry organization members, such as those with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, indicate they have already seen a lot of cattle trailers heading away from the Gulf Coast, evacuating their cattle in anticipation of the storm,” Vestal said. “But we’re expecting many more cattle and other types of livestock will not be evacuated in time and will be displaced by the storm. Those animals will need to be located and transported to these Animal Supply Points for food, water and shelter.”