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ARC to rescue pets left homeless by Harvey

By Staff | Aug 31, 2017

Any time there has been a crisis involving animals, the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers has always been there to lend a hand.

On Sunday, a pair of volunteers will be heading north to rescue dogs and cats that were let homeless in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

How many will they bring back? It depends on how many area residents are willing to serve as foster owners.

Wayne Leinen, ARC executive director, said the parameters of the trip are not set yet, but a box truck of supplies is going to be packed up Sunday and brought over on Monday by locals who have family in Rockport, Texas, one of the hardest hit areas from the storm.

The volunteers said they saw the situation out there, with many animals stranded, and agreed to combine their trip to their families with the rescue mission.

Making things harder is the overall situation out there, as highways are flooded and many areas are in ruins, which will make it difficult for lost animals to be reunited with their owners, whether they got lost or were surrendered.

“We’ve been in contact with six different contact points, but it’s a mess,” Leinen said. “Most of the areas that were hit hardest are still inaccessible to some extent, and many of the shelters are doing their best to move out animals surrendered by their owners to a central location so they can be reunited with their owners.”

Leinen said they hope someone will meet the volunteers halfway and make the trip a lot less stressful for the animals.

Leinen said the shelters, rather than be forced to euthanize a large group of animals, would rather send them to other organizations like ARC so the lost and displaced animals can be moved in.

The numbers of animals ARC will be able to receive depends on the number of foster homes that line up and volunteer to take them in, Leinen said. Eight applications had come in on Tuesday alone.

“I could take 25 to 30 small or medium dogs and cats on property. I can augment those numbers with the foster homes,” Leinen said. “We can save about 33 dogs and 25 to 30 cats if applications keep coming in.”

The more foster homes ARC has, the more animals they can take. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, they had foster homes for every animal they planned to bring back, as ARC was full at the time.

Back then, 72 dogs and 60 cats were fostered out, with many of the fosters becoming permanent owners, Leinen said.

Applications for foster homes are always welcome. However, there is always a push following natural disasters. While they trickle in otherwise, maybe a couple per month, emergencies result in numbers going up fourfold.

For more information, go to www.animalrefugecenter.com.