Pets & Animals

Southwest donates plane to fly homeless animals from hurricane-ravaged Houston

Many victims of Hurricane Harvey sadly lost their homes — including quite a few who walk on four legs. When Texas shelters found themselves overrun with homeless pets after last month's storm, Southwest Airlines stepped in to help move dozens of animals across the country.

Southwest first partnered with Helen Woodward Animal Center of San Diego, California, in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. Upon seeing the damage caused by Harvey, the shelter and airline quickly hooked up again. After operating several relief flights for customers and employees, Southwest donated a flight to transport about 60 cats and dogs from Houston to San Diego.

Helen Woodward Animal Center
Moe (who has two friends named Larry and Curly) is one of the dogs who made it out of Houston.

"The idea was to move animals who were already in the shelters when the hurricane hit and were now facing euthanization ... to make room for families' pets that become homeless after Harvey," explained Michelle Agnew, a spokesperson for Southwest.

On Aug. 31, the Helen Woodward staff flew to Houston's Operation Pets Alive (OPA!), where the homeless cats and dogs were being housed temporarily. The shelter staff determined how many animals were fit to fly and could be accommodated in California. Southwest then provided the aircraft to transport the pets on Sept. 5th.

Helen Woodward Animal Center
The Harvey survivors arrive in San Diego, California.

Once in California, the animals received lots of love to help them recover from their ordeal.

"They're doing as well as they can considering the circumstances," said Mindy Wright, a representative of Helen Woodward Animal Center. "They were already in a tough situation, packed in close quarters without their normal routines or medications, and then had to go through the plane ride."

She continued, "By the time they got to us ... some aren't feeling well, some are recovering from trauma, and some are in line to get microchips, vaccinations, and other things we require before we can adopt them out."

The shelter is keeping an eye on the Harvey survivors, nursing the sick animals back to health and getting the others prepped for adoptions.

Wright is pleased to report that the first round of animals — including a trio of dogs named Larry, Curly and Moe, and a couple of "hound puppies with squishy faces"— went up for adoption on Saturday.

Both Agnew and Wright expressed interest in making a similar effort after Hurricane Irma, though they'll need to assess the situation before knowing more details.

As for the rest of the Harvey survivors, they're in good hands until they're ready to find their fur-ever homes.

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