30 Day Hold from Euthanasia for Harvey Animals in Texas
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We are writing this petition, in hopes of having a mandatory 30 day hold for all displaced animals in all Texas shelters due to Hurricane Harvey and for any other area disasters in Texas in the future. With a disaster of this magnitude there are still many stranded, homeless and devastated people and families who were separated from their pets due to the flood waters, destroyed homes, and the rescue process. Numerous people are still without cars, transportation or the means to locate their pets.
The animal situation in Houston and Texas is dire. Dozens of thousands of strays, at one point conservatively estimated at 1.2 million, were on the streets before Hurricane Harvey. There are few laws about breeding, selling or spaying/neutering animals with little or no enforcement of any laws that do exist. Backyard breeding and dog fighting, especially involving the bully breeds, is rampant. Dogs and puppies are sold openly out of cars in parking lots. The Houston SPCA (HSPCA) is overwhelmed with the many reports of cruelty as animals are dumped and wander the streets. Only a couple of places offer low cost spay/neuter and there are few if no free clinics. Shelters are already over-crowded and animals can be killed in 3 days under city law if strays/owner surrenders are not adopted out. Thousands and thousands DIE yearly. This is true for Harris County, Brazoria County, Ft. Bend, Montgomery, and Galveston County which can all be considered part of the greater Houston area as they are bedroom communities to Houston.
THE NEED FOR A 30 DAY HOLD FOR HARVEY ANIMALS:
There is no current legislation protecting displaced animals for longer than the typical 3 day hold time at government animal control shelters during a disaster - meaning an animal coming into a county or municipal or any animal shelter could be legally euthanized after only 72 hours.
People report that FEMA: (https://www.fema.gov/pdf/conferences/iaconference/2010/wednesday_830am_household_pets_intro_1.pdf - Page 7) and the Federal PETS Act: (http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/federal-pets-act-information/ ) require hold times for 30 days or more in a disaster area to reunite people with pets.
However, we have found no written documentation or information that supports this and have learned there is no mandate to hold animals in a government animal control/shelter for longer than usual hold times of 3 days (72 hours) during a disaster. It is each animal shelter's discretion in the State of Texas as to whether they extend the hold time or not.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and has numerous animal shelters located in different areas for families to locate their pet. But, to our knowledge, NONE of the government animal control animal shelters are no kill shelters. There are only 2 no kill animal shelters in and around the Houston area, both of which are private shelters - Friends for Life and Special Pals. Many animals that came in at the beginning of Harvey are already out of "time" and legally can be, have been, and are being euthanized at this very moment. Indeed, some unfortunate animals are rapidly approaching their 30 day hold limit for shelters that did agree to give the 30 days.
There are unimaginable numbers of displaced animals and Austin Pets Alive nonprofit has already taken in more than 1000 displaced pets from Hurricane Harvey and expects to reach 2000 soon if not more. Many local nonprofit organizations and out of town rescue groups and nonprofits such as Best Friends Animal Society are doing all they can to rescue and care for thousands of Texas animals, with many more to be rescued - hopefully to be reunited with their families or placed into new homes if the families cannot take them. However, this time limit is tremendously challenging for people who have already lost so much. Record-keeping of the displaced animals appears to be chaotic and animals are being transferred out of town/area, making it even more difficult for people to simply LOCATE their pet. Government animal shelters requirement to only hold displaced Harvey animals for 3 days is, in our opinion, inhumane for both the animals and their families who have likely lost everything. Rescue groups cannot even plan to save these animals or transfer them to safety or to fosters if they are rushed to euthanasia in just 3 days.
Found animals are now being directed to BARC or HSPCA - the kill shelters now! There are still thousands of injured and/or stray animals. The City of Houston does not want to address these problems. Ignoring the problem will not resolve the issues. Right now individuals and rescues are desperately forming groups and transport chains to try to pull dogs/cats and get them to safety - but the numbers are staggering....and overwhelming and they are running out of time in many cases. It's extremely challenging, if not impossible, to reunite animals with only a 3 day hold, or even the 30 day hold that is soon ending. Many are elderly people who cannot get to computers to search through the multiple difficult data bases to look for an animal they may be missing, and in many cases animals are not even showing up in the data bases.
A better system must ultimately be put into place so this does not happen again. One database for all animals involved would help, better evacuation plans and shelters taking pets would help, suspending euthanizing at local shelters while animals are moved to rescues or foster groups would help, mainstreaming and keeping records to where animals are moved would help. In short, a greater discussion must be had very soon about the problem with the over pet population in the greater Houston area and surrounding counties, along with what to do in these emergencies.
In the meantime, we are asking the State of Texas, and the animal shelters for The City of Houston, Harris County, Brazoria County, Ft. Bend County, Montgomery County, Galveston County and all the surrounding cities and areas affected by Hurricane Harvey to PLEASE have compassion for these animals and their families. Please give them a chance to reunite with their families if they can be, by instituting a state-wide minimum 30 day hold, for the sake of the Harvey victims and their beloved pets.
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