How Hurricane Harvey forever transformed animal rescue at BARC and beyond

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Although it's been two years, the images are hard to forget the path of destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of people were displaced, but there's also another group often forgotten about—our pets. We do a lot to prepare for a storm, but oftentimes in all the chaos, our four-legged friends run the risk of getting left behind.

"As soon as you start hearing about people being displaced, you about their animals," BARC Adoptions Coordinator Lynette Bodmer said.

Bodmer recalls just how they started getting ready two years ago, even before Harvey hit.

"We transferred quite a bit out of the shelter before the storm hit to make room for those that we knew would be coming in," Bodmer said.

As we know, the storm did hit and BARC employees were forced to hunker down at the shelter.

"We had a crew here for a few days that provided care. They put beds down in the offices and made sure everybody still got taken care of, and that the animals were cleaned and had food and water," Bodmer said.

BARC crews also went out to the human shelters across the city to help out, something they weren't always able to do.

Bodmer says that with Harvey, animals were allowed at some of the shelters this time. That was largely due to Hurricane Katrina.

"Specifically with Katrina, that's where changes really started to be discussed because there were so many people, and so many animals were left behind. So many people also stayed behind and left themselves in danger because they weren't allowed to bring their pets." Bodmer said. "So there was a big push for change, and Harvey was the first time that we really got to put that change in motion," Bodmer said.

That changed consisted of a full deployment of BARC crews. Bodmer says that they sent teams out to the shelters around the city to help care for the animals that were coming in. They provided bedding, food and water, crates and kennels, and basic vet care for the animals.

"It was a huge endeavor, but it actually worked out amazingly well," Bodmer said.

As for the displaced animals, Bodmer says that many of them found new homes out of state.

But as Bodmer looks back at it all, she's happy with everything they were able to do.

"Helping them with their animals took such a burden off of them. So even if it was walking their dog for a few minutes so they could go fill out some FEMA paperwork - and just seeing that relief come over people - that's the biggest thing I took away from it," Bodmer said. "It was amazing to watch the people come together for the people."

What can you do?

If you're a pet owner, and in the event of another storm hitting, here's some things you can do to get ready. Even before hurricane season starts, have an emergency kit ready to go. It should have things like your pet's shot records, a crate/carrier, leashes, food, water, bowls. It's also recommended to have Ziploc bags handy so that you can keep important things and documents dry.

The BARC Animal Shelter also welcomes donations of supplies and monetary donations are always welcome. Go to their website, www.houstontx.gov/barc, for more information.

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