Cats and Dogs displaced by Hurricane Harvey seek homes in South Jersey

The transportation of pets inflicted by the storm continues to create a ripple effect throughout the nation.

Jessica Stolinski and Laurie Ballard of Voorhees Animal Orphanage take Antonio, who arrived from a shelter in San Antonio , for a walk.

After Hurricane Harvey battered the Gulf Coast, dogs and cats have been making the cross-country journey from Texas to New Jersey.

Dozens of shelters scattered throughout the Northeast Corridor are embracing the animals afflicted by the aftermath of the storm, including a few in the Voorhees and Mt. Laurel areas.

“It feels very good to save a dog or cat anywhere,” said Dawn Hullings, director of One Love Animal Rescue, based in Mt. Laurel, which received six dogs from Texas. “A save is a save, and this part is more important, because even if these people wanted to do more for these animals, they’re paralyzed by the chaos.”

Pets plucked from the floodwater are seeking refuge in local South Texas shelters, creating a colossal assembly line, as the animals who were already in safe areas are being transported and dispersed, making room for incoming ones.

“It is a shuffle of animals, but at ground zero,” said Jennifer Bailey, secretary of the Voorhees Animal Orphanage, which houses 65 kennels, serving more than 17 towns throughout Camden County and acts as both municipal shelter and adoption center. “We don’t want to take dogs from flood waters, because hopefully they get reunited with their families.”

This disaster-relief effort started with a partnership between St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison and the Humane Society of the United States.

Many local shelters, including Voorhees Animal Orphanage, the Animal Welfare Association and One Love Animal Rescue, already take in pets from St. Hubert’s on a weekly basis.

“We always make sure we have large enough room, because you don’t know when a horde can come in,” Bailey said.

Harvey did, indeed, send a horde, as nearly 180 dogs were originally intended for travel during the first wave of transports to St. Hubert’s on Aug. 29. However, of that 180, roughly 80 dogs were cleared for flying, as a majority of them showed signs of upper respiratory conditions.

Of the eight set to arrive at the Voorhees Animal Orphanage, only one dog, Antonio, made the trip.

“Antonio is a representation of what’s going on in the bigger picture, which is life in Texas due to this horrific disaster,” Bailey said.

Five of the 12 dogs that arrived in two transport waves to the AWA were diagnosed with the disease. AWA’s most recent refugees came from Best Friends Animal Society and the Animal Rescue Foundation, or ARF, including three cats from Texas.

Many dogs deemed safe to travel were later diagnosed with heartworm, a condition in which parasites invade the heart, once they landed in New Jersey. The disease is especially prevalent among canines in the South, due to the humid climate and increased access to flea and tick bites.

“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise, because you get them into a new area with fresh eyes,” said Stacie DaBolt, director of operations for the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees, which serves as an adoption center and clinic. “It’s a different kind of community, and South Jersey is an amazing community for adoption.”

Five of the 12 from the AWA were adopted last weekend.

Naturally, as new animals are arriving from the destroyed regions, the occupying ones need to be transported. The shuffle could continue to ripple throughout the nation for months, as people returning to their homes in Texas could find innumerable strays separated from their owners. This could prove particularly true in the wake of Hurricane Irma, as shelters are preparing for influxes from Florida and the Carolinas.

“This is an ongoing effort,” Bailey said. “We know there will be future transports.”

Based off the community’s donations, fostering and adopting just in the past weeks, all three shelters anticipate new homes for the arriving animals.

“Everybody learned from Katrina from the street up,” said DaBolt, who worked on the forefront of animal rescue during the 2005 hurricane. “Now, there is a much bigger, better, opening understanding that these disasters are not just about the human element … At the end of the day, it just tells you how resilient animals are. They can survive a lot and come out on the other side with a new home, and they are happy, loving, thriving.”

For those interested in contributing, contact information is below.

Animal Welfare Association: https://www.awanj.org/ (856) 424–2288

Voorhees Animal Orphanage: http://www.vaonj.org/ (856) 627–9111

One Love Animal Rescue: http://www.oneloveanimalrescue.org/