Saturday 24 February 2018

Hurricane Harvey: Airline flies plane of abandoned animals out of Texas to safety

Southwest Airlines has helped a Californian rescue centre rescue 80 abandoned cats and dogs

A man is evacuated by boat with his dog from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A man is evacuated by boat with his dog from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A local stands next to a damaged house as Hurricane Irma moves off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Nagua, Dominican Republic, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
Waves break over the sea wall ahead of Hurricane Katia in Veracruz, Mexico, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victor Yanez
Policeman holds large rifle
Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose (R) and Hurricane Katia (L) are pictured in the Atlantic Ocean in this September 7, 2017 NOAA satellite handout photo. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

Caroline Mortimer

An American airline has flown around 80 cats and dogs left behind in the face of Hurricane Harvey to a new home.

Southwest Airlines rescued the animals from shelters in parts of storm-hit Texas and took them to a facility run by the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe near San Diego, California.

The shelters they left behind were then freed up to temporarily house animals who were separated from their owners as they fled the storm.

The charity coordinated the rescue mission with the Houston-based charity Operation Pets Alive! which tries to find non-lethal options for abandoned animals and pets in normal circumstances.

OPA’s president and CEO Mike Arms told the Huffington Post: “There are shelters that have been devastated by Hurricane Harvey, without electricity, without supplies.

“Operation Pets Alive! has taken in an overwhelming number of orphan dogs and cats who had inhabited those shelters before the storm and were suddenly facing euthanasia simply because they had no place to go”.

The Helen Woodward Center had previously worked with Southwest in 2012 to move 60 dogs and cats on a chartered flight out of New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy and also intervened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The centre’s director of operations, Jennifer Shorey, told Fox 5 San Diego: “You look at all of those faces and know that their stay at the shelter was meant to be temporary.

“It was supposed to lead them to forever homes, but when something as devastating as a hurricane hits, so much has to be left behind.

“People lose their homes, their possessions, and just focus on survival. And those orphan pets are left behind too. You realise how much of a difference you can make and how many lives you can save.”

Another charity, Wings of Rescue, also flew around 180 animals from affected shelters in Texas to Illinois earlier this week, Chicago-based broadcaster WGN9 reported.

The group is now planning more flights for animals who face being abandoned in Florida as Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall in the mainland US this weekend.

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