Flood dogs

Volunteers load up pets evacuated from flooding in Texas onto a Wings of Rescue flight for placement at no-kill shelters elsewhere for adoption. The California-based nonprofit organization will bring 30 dogs and possibly some cats from the Houston area to Walla Walla’s Blue Mountain Humane Society shelter.

Like other animal shelters in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, Blue Mountain Humane Society in on deck to become a Noah’s ark of sorts.

The Walla Walla animal shelter has volunteered to take about 30 dogs — and maybe some cats — from the flood-ravaged Houston area. Executive Director Sara Archer said 10 of those dogs will be pit-bull types, the hardest to rehome out of any shelter.

The animals being sent away from the flooded region are not family pets rescued from the flooding, but those impounded before Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Gulf Coast of Texas on Aug. 25.

“The Humane Society of the United States’ priority is to get animals out of those shelters so that animals from the flood can be housed,” Archer said. “People there do no need to fear their animals will get taken away from the area.”

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina taught animal welfare workers some important lessons in relocating animals in disasters.

Then, pet owners were told they could not take their animals with them to community shelters, forcing many families to leave their pets behind. Others chose to ride out the storm and flooding with their pets.

Once rescued, some family pets were taken hundreds of miles away and never returned to their owners, Archer said.

“Those were well-intentioned animal effort rescue efforts, but moving animals away from their families has a lasting impact,” she said.

The Texas animals are being flown via Wings of Rescue, a California-based nonprofit organization founded in 2012 to get endangered dogs and cats to no-kill shelters for adoption.

Volunteer pilots use their own planes, and the group also uses chartered cargo planes for animal evacuations.

Blue Mountain Humane Society will employ its dog runs and any empty cages to house the newcomers.

All the animals will receive health inspections here and will have already been altered, vaccinated and behavior-tested in Texas shelters.

Archer said the biggest challenge will be heartworm, as some cats and dogs in shelters in southern states test positive for the potentially fatal disease.

It’s caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected animals, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body, according to the American Heartworm Society.

Plans are in place to detect and treat the disease should any affected animals land in Walla Walla, Archer said.

Otherwise, the animals should be ready for adoption almost immediately after arriving.

Walla Walla is just one community receiving the Houston-area animals, anticipated to arrive here within two weeks.

“The whole country is willing to help,” Archer said.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.