On Sunday, August 27, while the storm was still raging and waters were still rising, we were asked to manage the care for animals arriving with evacuees to George R. Brown convention center.
Our director sits on the advisory board of the city of Houston animal shelter (BARC) so it was logical that we got the call. The only No Kill shelter in Houston, we have disaster-trained staff and an army of passionate volunteers. We took on this challenge, knowing that our results will define how the nation thinks about sheltering people with animals during a disaster.
- At its peak, the shelter at the George R Brown housed approximately 10,000 people
- We cared for nearly 3,000 animals between August 27 and September 8
- Approximately 1,500 animals received free veterinary care and supplies
We realized that what had to happen was that we needed to set up a shelter within a shelter, and what was needed in terms of supplies was everything.Salise Shuttlesworth, Friends For Life Executive Director
During Katrina many died because they would not evacuate without their pets. When Harvey struck, Houston took the opportunity for a smarter and more empathetic response. Friends For Life took the lead at George R Brown and created a “proof of concept” for the nation—showing that people and animals can safely be sheltered together.
What it looked like in the moment…
A Template For the Nation
In collaboration with the USDA, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and the American National Red Cross, Friends For Life helped to create a national disaster manual for launching and running a cohabitated shelter. Extensive field guides already exist to brief jurisdictions on every aspect of human-shelter management, ranging from handling HVAC systems to parking. This new manual, based in part on Houston’s experience with Harvey, supplements those materials, providing a crash course on how to keep families intact while also attending to public health and safety concerns.Cohabitated-HumanHousehold-Pet-Sheltering-Toolkit