Dogs rescued from hurricane-ravaged Houston arrive in Toronto
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, September 11, 2017 11:15AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:29PM EDT
More than 50 dogs have successfully made the trip to Canada from hurricane-ravaged Houston thanks to the collaborative efforts of Ontario-based animal advocacy groups.
Members of Toronto’s Redemption Paws took three supply-filled, temperature controlled vans on 24-hour trip to the flood soaked city earlier this month to rescue dozens of pups displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
The goal of the trip was to take the dogs that were already in the shelter system before the hurricane hit in order to make room for animals who were forcibly displaced by the hurricane.
Houston already has one of the largest populations of stray dogs in North America – with an estimated one million homeless pups wandering the streets – and that number is expected to increase as the area starts to rebuild.
While many of the dogs rescued by the Toronto-based crew were already in shelters when Harvey struck, others were surrendered after by distressed owners who could no longer look after them.
“That was a really, really hard part,” Redemption Paws volunteer Curtis Cluett told CP24 Monday.
“There were a lot of owner surrenders and just people who couldn’t take care of their dogs anymore. I had more than one person come up and just break down and cry on my shoulder. It was a very, very emotionally hard day.”
Cluett said volunteers cherry picked dogs that would typically be deemed unadoptable, such as dogs with ailments or disabilities, as well as elderly canines.
“We’ve got two different blind dogs and we’ve got a bunch of other dogs with different issues,” he said. “Thankfully Toronto has such a fantastic adopt-don’t-shop mentality; people want to take care of special needs dog. It’s really fantastic because they would be unadoptable in Texas.”
The dogs will be spread throughout the Ontario SPCA headquarters in Toronto, Newmarket and Welland, Ont. where they will be quarantined for 10 to 14 days.
During that time, the dogs will be treated for any pre-existing medical conditions and monitored for any issues that may have been picked up during the cross-country trip.
Sonya Reichel, the executive director for the Georgian Triangle Humane Society, where five of the rescued pups will be quarantined, said the support the rescue effort has received from Canadians is “amazing.”
“We will take in dogs from all backgrounds, all ages and give them the medical attention that they need to get into their new loving family,” she said. “We’re so appreciative of the support of these volunteers and donors who are making all of this happen. This is a project that’s based on the care and compassion for animals and it’s pretty extraordinary.”
While the world watched as Harvey battered Houston shorelines and destroyed communities, images of pets abandoned by panicked evacuees tugged at the heartstrings of these Toronto volunteers.
Cluett, who took a liking to a tiny rescue Chihuahua called Rupert, said it only felt right to step up and do something for the truly helpless.
“I feel fantastic. This is probably one of the best things that we could’ve done for them,” he said. “It feels great to give these dogs a chance. All of them are so loving and so loved that I know they’re going to do absolutely fantastic up here.”
Organizers say they’re currently “overwhelmed” by the amount of people who have reached out with adoption and foster applications, as well as “thousands” of emails simply offering support for their efforts.
At this time, they’re directing anyone interested in applying to foster or adopt one of the Texan pups to the Redemption Paw’s website.
The organization is also still running a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the trip and the rescue dog’s medical expenses. Cluett said some of the money raised will also go toward future cross-border trips when natural disasters strike and the “need is great.”
As of Monday morning, the Go Fund Me page had already brought in $26,625.