Whether you live in Texas or nowhere near it, you may be able to directly help animals affected by Tropical Storm Harvey and its aftermath.
And it could involve an adorable new furry friend.
Animal shelters and rescue groups in Texas and around the country are stressing the need for people to adopt or temporarily foster pets to make more room for animals coming in from the cities hit hardest by Harvey.
“Right now in Austin, we’ve taken in 1,000 animals from the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, and we’re probably going to take in another 1,000 more over the course of the weekend,” Lindsey Picard, spokeswoman for animal rescue group Austin Pets Alive!, told HuffPost.
Many of those animals come from other animal shelters now flooded or otherwise inoperable because of storm damage, Picard said. That means they were in the shelter system already, and still need adoptive homes.
Other animals include pets of evacuees who simply need a place to temporarily house their animals. Those animals will ultimately go back with their families and are not up for adoption. However, adopting or fostering other animals in the shelter will help free up space for more.
Other Texas animal welfare organizations are receiving similar influxes. The SPCA of Brazoria County — posted on Facebook Thursday that it was caring for more than 300 “flood rescue evacuees” and was expecting as many as 500 more. That, plus the animals already at the shelter, meant the organization was caring for more than 1,000 animals.
The SPCA of Texas took in more than 100 animals from a Corpus Christi shelter before Harvey hit, and is providing housing for numerous pets of evacuees in Dallas.
And now, animal shelters around the country are stepping up to take on some of the burden. Organizations across the U.S., including in Atlanta, Chicago, Iowa, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Orleans, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., have been receiving hundreds of shelter animals from Texas.
With the large volume of incoming animals, shelters in Texas and around the country now need people to adopt or foster a pet.
D.C. residents have a special incentive. Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica May-Scherzer, are donating money to cover all adoption fees for pets from the Humane Rescue Alliance through Sunday.
Picard noted that even if someone isn’t ready to make a lifelong commitment, fostering an animal until a permanent home is found can make a crucial difference for the pet’s welfare ― especially in the cases of animals that have already gone through so much.
“Some of these animals have been in boats, in trucks, in planes, and have had such a stressful experience,” she said, explaining that a home environment can often ease that stress better than a shelter could.
Of course, even if your local animal shelter isn’t taking in displaced animals — or if you’re not in a position to foster or adopt — there’s still plenty you can do to help animals hit by Harvey. For one, you can donate directly to Texas groups on the ground aiding animals, including Austin Pets Alive, Houston Pets Alive, the Harris County Animal Shelter, the SPCA of Brazoria County, and the SPCA of Texas. And if you’re in the area, many of those groups are accepting volunteers to help with animal intake, transportation and care.