DALLAS - Rescued from the ravages of rising floodwaters, a faithful feline named John Cougar Mellencat, a cockatiel named Parrot and dozens of dogs destined for Dallas are now saved from Tropical Storm Harvey, cared for as families find their footing in storm shelters across the city.
The Dallas-based SPCA of Texas reported 67 dogs in its care Wednesday, in addition to one bird and 123 cats. Volunteers transferred the felines from a shelter in Corpus Christi Friday, moving them north for safe-keeping.
"We want to make sure that people who have already fled some pretty horrific stuff can rest assured that their pets are pretty well cared for," said SPCA spokesperson Maura Davies in an interview Wednesday. "We are here to provide them with some great food and exceptional care."
In contrast to Hurricane Katrina, when families were largely prohibited from bringing pets to new cities, state and federal authorities are now permitting faithful friends to join evacuations.
While Dallas does not allow animals to stay with humans in the same shelters, pets are microchipped, photographed, collared, kept in the same city, and have extensive visiting hours during the day.
"I remember during Katrina when one man who ended up in North Texas couldn't bring his dog, so he opened a big bag of food, gave him a big hug and said, 'buddy I sure hope I see you again,'" Davies said.
"As much as we can, we're trying not to repeat that same mistake again."
Twelve years ago, authorities often sent animals to far-off cities, making reunions difficult or impossible. Animals brought to Dallas from Harvey's disaster zone only belong to families who are now staying in one of the city's four shelters.
Lost animals in Houston, so far, are largely being kept in the surrounding area - securing them close to their homes.
Officials said Dallas is poised to host thousands of animals if need be, with a new shelter set up next to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. Kennels now line one of the corridors of the parking deck for the old Reunion Arena, with Astroturf unfurled along a section of the concrete.
Up to 5,000 people are expected to fill the convention center in the coming days, with numbers of evacuees downtown still low because of impassible freeways.
"The most difficult part of all of this is really not knowing how many animals we're going to get," Davies said. "But if we need more capacity, we'll just keep building new space here in the parking lot."
As for how people can help, authorities asked local families to consider adopting animals in the next few days, in order to clear existing spaces in the region's shelters.
"It is one of the most poignant storylines in all of this," Davies added as she checked on two Chihuahuas in the parking structure. "That animals who ask for nothing but give unconditional love, are receiving nothing but our love in return."
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