This is the first time Holly has ever done something like this in her entire life. To NETA Cares and the victims of Hurricane Harvey—both humans and animals—she’s a hero. Holly has been connecting people to rescue teams to save both their lives and the lives of their animals. Many people were separated from their furry friends during the rescue attempts of Hurricane Harvey. Holly knew she had to help in some way.

It started when Holly and her roommate saw on Twitter that this woman clearly created an account to get help. She kept tweeting, “Please don’t let us die.” There wasn’t anyone rescuing her, no one to help her. Holly immediately started reaching out to rescue teams. She worked with Cajun Navy 501(c)3 based out of Texas and the Humanitarian Aid and Rescue Project (HARP) based out of Oregon. She wanted to find this woman and get a team to her. This woman and her mom were on the roof of a car, simply hoping for a hero. After several hours, until about 6 AM, the rescue teams found her and she was saved. This is when Holly knew she could help even more people.

Holly remarked that this entire situation has been very, very intense. In fact, she is still processing everything that has happened and is continuing to happen. She’s dispatched thousands of rescues at this point. She said she can’t list all of the success stories because there are so many; however, she could tell you every incident where she couldn’t help save the people on the other end. One that hit incredibly close to home was a mother and two kids – she and the rescue teams just couldn’t get them out in time. That was absolutely heartbreaking to Holly.

The rescue teams started realizing that no one was actually saving any animals that were left behind. Holly then started connecting the teams to people that were disconnected from their pets. There was a story of this woman who was separated from her three cats. A team showed up to save her, but instructed her that they didn’t have room on the boat for her three crated kitties. This woman was seriously distressed; she left her home kicking and screaming. Luckily Holly was able to connect this woman to a rescue team and successfully saved the three furry felines.

In Texas, the rules are looser for pet ownership. Holly reminisced one story of a man who called for help saying that he had some cats and rabbits. The rescue team arrived and found a mini zoo – rabbits, cats, a lemur, tropical birds, wallabies, etc. The teams started to realize that you never know what may be on the other end of the rescue mission. They even started asking what they should do if they approach a house with a large predatory cat. Texas has more backyard zoos than established zoos in the entire country. Horse and cattle owners were instructed to shave their phone number into the side of the animals and let them run free. They have a better chance of surviving with their own animal instincts than being tied up a barn, where they could drown.

Holly also noted some of the challenges she did not anticipate. If she needed to leave from Boston and go to western MA, it would take (at most) 3 hours. In Texas, from one end of Houston to the other could take almost 12 hours. The water itself was also a challenge — there were sharks swimming in the flooded streets, 16’ gators, killer red ants infesting boats, general contamination, etc. In fact, decontamination stations were put in place to help rescuers and animals suffering from MERSA and E. coli. These rescuers were and continue to literally put their lives on the line.

There is a lot of work now during the aftermath. Animals are getting euthanized at rapid rates. There are thousands of dogs and cats that have no one to take care of them, or their owners have lost everything and cannot take them back. During this terrible situation, Holly recognized that breeding in the south is a little different than up north. People breed large animals and have lots of offspring in their litters. The rates of euthanizing animals down south are much higher – using gas chambers as one method – she remarked it’s awful. There are also areas in Texas that are very poor and suffer from poverty. People just let their dogs run loose. Now, rescuers don’t know if the dog they find is a stray or potentially someone’s pet.

Even shelters are hard for people to get in with their pets. For one, they have to be crated. A leash is simply not enough. Most shelters required the animals to be fully vaccinated in order to get inside. Legally, there has to be an effort to rescue the animals and accommodate them inside. But with so many animals arriving at their doorsteps, there’s only so much that they can do.

Holly just came back from a 3-day trip to Houston to help with the animals there – completely on her own dime and time. She said the biggest issue is transporting the dogs to northern states. It’s anywhere between $150-$600 per dogs, and most airlines require a 12-21-hour quarantine hold and boarding for some animals. The Pet Harbor website shows many adoptable animals from Houston. Some have been adopted or have been found by their owner. Holly’s biggest piece of advice is to not be specific of what dog you want. Perhaps pick a breed, but don’t focus on the size or personality. Currently, there are a lot of Pitbulls, German Shepherds, Hounds, Chihuahuas and Huskies. Holly’s mission is to save as many as she can.

Holly has a Go Fund Me page for anyone who wants to help, and we encourage everyone to contribute if they can. The website is: www.gofundme.com/lets-save-hurricane-harvey-pets.