Within two days, the storage area at Lovin’ Arms Pet Center was filled with supplies some of Hurricane Harvey’s furriest victims might need.
Amber Foster, a senior integrated studies major from St. George, and employee at Lovin’ Arms Pet Center, was among four women who decided they wouldn’t stand around and feel sorry for Hurricane Harvey’s victims.
“When we heard about Hurricane Harvey, we just had this immediate sense of ‘what can we do to help?’” Foster said.
They immediately began contacting local Texas animal shelters to see if they needed supplies and an extra set of hands. Lovin’ Arms Pet Center made a Facebook post asking for donations from the community, and two days later its storage area was filled with crates, leashes, collars, cleaning supplies, blankets and 1,200 pounds of food.
Foster and her team left for Texas Aug. 28 and began working with San Antonio Pets Alive to rescue animals. The donations Lovin’ Arms Pet Center received went to the Gulf Coast Humane Society.
“They said our donation was the largest they received since the hurricane hit,” Foster said. “All of their faces lit up when we were like, ‘hey, we’ve got a trailer full of food and stuff.’”
When Foster and her team arrived to San Antonio, she said it was overwhelming to see how much work needed to be done.
“It was just overwhelming with emotion,” Foster said. “You know, people just lost everything. And I was really feeling a lot of heartache seeing people and their animals being misplaced.”
While Foster and her sister stayed in Texas for five days to help mostly with donations, Carol Peckham, co-owner of Lovin’ Arms Pet Center and co-founder of P.A.W.S. (Providing Animals With Support), and another volunteer stayed in Texas for over a week to help rescue animals. Peckham said she went to Lake Jackson, Texas, with SAPA and ended up rescuing 70 cats from that area.
“They had ring worm and upper respiratory problems,” Peckham said. “They were a mess.”
She also went to Katy, Texas, and filled a van with dogs to take back to San Antonio. All dogs who were transported to other areas were dogs who have been in shelters for awhile. This allows more space in shelters for rescue animals from the hurricane. P.A.W.S rescue team transported 15 dogs and two cats from Texas shelters to St. George.
Peckham spent a night at a hotel in West Columbia, Texas, which they were later evacuated from because sewage was coming up, and E.coli was found in drinking water.
Although Foster loves her dogs and considers them her children, she understands why some people leave their animals behind in a natural disaster.
“You always want to say, ‘I would never leave my animal behind,’ but I think in an emergency situation where it’s your life or theirs and you could only save one, of course people are going to choose a human life,” Foster said. “So as far as leaving their animals behind, I feel devastated for those animals, and I feel devastated for the people who had to make that choice.”
If you are unable to bring your animal to a shelter with you, Foster said to make sure not to leave your animal in a crate or tie them up.
“Please don’t tie your animals up; it’s like certain death,” Foster said. “You’re not giving them any sort of chance to find help.”
When it comes to Dixie State University, Dillon McKinney, a senior mathematics major from St. George and vice president of service for DSU Student Association, said they are currently looking to send a group to Texas over spring break for an alternative break.
Even though it’s not a done deal yet, Foster said Lovin’ Arms Pet Center is considering traveling to help with rescue efforts in Florida after Hurricane Irma. She said Lovin’ Arms Pet Center is in the process of contacting shelters to see if they need help.