While warming centers opened their doors for Houston residents with the start of the freezing weather last Thursday, some also catered to the furry friend populations in the area.
The George R. Brown Convention Center, Fonde and Moody Community Center, and Acres Homes Multi-Service Center provided shelter space for owners to bring their animals during the cold weather days.
Typically, warming centers do not allow people to bring pets, said Angelina Saucedo, Marketing Manager at the Houston Humane Society. However, with the help from BARC, the Humane Society, and partners these four facilities were able to accommodate pets this freeze.
According to the Houston Health Department’s registration data, 56 animals sheltered at these centers, with 47 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, and the rest dispersed between the other three centers.
“Us, BARC, and other law enforcement are a part of the Harris County Animal Cruelty Task Force. So we all partner when it comes to animal cruelty and natural disasters. Ahead of the freeze, we did communicate with BARC regarding what we could do on our end, so that’s how it all came about,” said Saucedo.
Also partnered with BARC was Houston PetSet, this organization called on volunteers to assist at the warming sites, said Cory Stottlemyer, Director of Communications and Deputy Shelter Director with BARC.
“I was actually one of the first people who went and volunteered time there,” said Lisa Tyman, Marketing and Special Events Specialist with Houston PetSet. “We just checked in with pet owners, made sure they had everything they needed, and if they had questions about safety or care of pets, we were able to answer them and provide resources.”
Many of those seeking shelter were unhoused pet owners, so Houston PetSet volunteers also provided resources for veterinary care and additional information ahead of residents leaving the centers, said Tyman.
BARC and the Humane Society helped with providing materials that these pets needed during their stay. BARC brought crates, leashes, collars, pet waste bags, blankets, towels, food and water, said Stottlemyer.
The Humane Society added 50 additional crates, as well as leftover blankets and toys they had from donations at their shelter.
“It’s critical pets stay with their owners, not only to alleviate more animals on the streets, but also these pets are companions for those people receiving shelter,” Saucedo said. “They may be the only companion they have.”
Earlier this year, the Safe Outdoors Act was passed which requires pet owners to provide outdoor pets with adequate shelter that offers protection from inclement weather.
Inclement weather is weather that is defined as temperatures under 32 degrees, and with the weather in the teens last week, it was illegal to keep pets outside, said Saucedo.
During times of freezes and other natural disasters, the number of animals found on the street rises, said Saucedo. Because of this, organizations like the Humane Society and BARC, have officers out from the Harris County Task Force, Fort Bend County and their own task forces responding to reports called in from residents to animal cruelty hotlines, said Saucedo.
The hotline that residents can report to during inclement weather and other cases of emergency animal cruelty is 832-927-PAWS. People can also report cases of animal cruelty online at 927PAWS.org.
Outside of providing donated materials to BARC’s shelters at the George R. Brown Convention center, the Humane Society helped the members of their Pet Pantry Program.
The Pet Pantry Program assists members of the community who apply to receive resources by providing free pet food and supplies for those who apply and are accepted into the program.
“Ahead of the freeze, we actually emailed those who are a part of our Pet Pantry Program asking them if they needed anything,” said Saucedo. “We had them apply for a pet crate and 50 responded, so we distributed 50 free crates to those local pet owners and free pet food.”
Saucedo also said their shelter prepared two weeks in advance urging anyone who was interested in fostering a pet to do so. With the community fostering animals, they had in their shelters, more space cleared up to keep the animals coming in protected from the cold.