As soon as it was determined that Hurricane Harvey would make landfall in Texas, dozens of animal shelters dove into action in an effort to evacuate as many animals as possible before the torrential downpour, punishing wind and inevitable devastation began.
With the knowledge that animal shelters would be overrun in the days following the Category 4 hurricane, tough decisions had to be made – quickly. Because the tough fact is that shelters can only hold so many animals, it’s a numbers game, and often times, if animals aren’t placed in homes after a certain date they are euthanized to make room for others.
And so the process began of finding shelters all over the country to house animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. Through that process, FurEver Home Inc., a Fremont organization founded in January 2016 that specializes in rescuing and re-homing dogs, educating the public about spaying/neutering, vaccinations and good dog behaviors; suddenly became an important player in post-hurricane aid.
At 10 p.m. Friday evening, 22 dogs arrived at the door step of FurEver Home Inc. in Fremont, 236 W. Sixth St., with the hope of finding a loving home and a bright future. The dogs were transported from a shelter in San Angelo, Texas, said Deb Steenblock, executive director of FurEver Home Inc.
Steenblock said during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune that planning and coordination happened the Thursday before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August.
“The dogs that were in the areas that were going to be hit already overpopulated the shelters that were on the outskirts – they were already at max capacity before the storms hit,” she said. “The Thursday before Hurricane Harvey we put out a pledge to some rescues that were clearing the shelters to keep the dogs safe.”
If the dogs weren’t able to be relocated they would be euthanized, she said.
“In order for those rescues to pull those dogs out of those areas they had to have rescue pledges that would pay for the boarding, their vetting and a commitment to have them transported,” she said.
The need for commitments was overwhelming. In Corpus Christi, Texas, one shelter alone had 767 dogs, and four other comparable shelters were cleared prior to the storm.
“So you’re talking about 3,000 dogs that were moved to safety, and that was in just one town,” Steenblock said. “… and that was just one area, I can’t imagine what it was like in a city with a population like Houston.”
Working with Concho Valley PAWS, an organization dedicated to saving homeless animals from euthanasia, finding loving homes for adoptable pets, and encouraging public awareness of spay and neuter to control the unwanted pet population, the first wave of dogs made the 18-hour-long trek to Fremont.
“All the dogs were kenneled, made the 18-hour trip and were delivered right to the front door last Friday night at 10 o’clock,” she said.
While coordinating the movement of such a quantity of dogs was very time consuming and stressful at times, Steenblock said she couldn’t have been more excited when they arrived.
“It was amazing, I don’t even know how to explain it,” she said. “It was like they opened the doors and it was almost like Christmas morning, just to see all these sweet dogs. Even as scared as they were, they just had great little personalities and were all ready to go on walks and get something to eat. It was a circus but it was a great time.”
Two adoption commitments have already been made, Steenblock said, and a great deal of work is happening to ensure that dogs are ready for adoption as soon as possible.
“Some came that need to be spayed and neutered, and we do have a few that are sick so those are in isolation being treated,” she said. “Other than that, the healthy ones – the fully-vaccinated ones – that we have foster pledges are now going to their foster homes this week. From there, as soon as we get everyone fully vetted and the vet signs off that they are completely healthy they are ready for adoption.”
Those interested in adopting are encouraged to visit www.fetchingfureverhomes.org, where they can click on the adoption tab.
There’s a good chance that more animals from hurricane-torn areas could end up in Fremont within three weeks, she said, however, there still is a focus on serving the Greater Fremont area’s animal needs.
“We will want to walk a fine balance of capacity here,” she said, “because we also want this facility to be able to serve our community. So we have certain percentages – we will have to be down to a certain capacity before we will do a mass pull again.”
Steenblock said that people constantly inquire about how they can get involved with helping shelter animals. The biggest way people can contribute now is to help with veterinarian expenses.
“We host fundraisers and events to help pay for that, and a lot of our volunteers pay out of their own pocket for some of those vet expenses,” she said.
Now at the new Sixth Street location, there are renovation expenses in the near future with constructing a space that will be used for an indoor play arena, doggie daycare center and low-cost to no-cost spay and neuter facility.
Networking is vital in this industry to keep the ball moving, she said.
“The biggest plea we have at this time is for people to share our event advertisements on Facebook and to attend our events,” she said. “We need to keep that vet money coming in as much as possible.”
For more information on donating, volunteering and adopting, people are encouraged to contact Steenblock at 402-719-6902.
Some Bank of the West employees are putting in more than their two cents when it comes to helping area youth.
Bank of the West and The Hope Center for Kids in Fremont and Omaha have been working to provide financial literacy classes for youth.
“Right now, Bank of the West employees volunteer their time on select Monday and Tuesday evenings at our facility, and we have this set up for our eighth- through 12-graders for the entire school year,” says Jonah Renter, youth program coordinator at The Hope-Fremont. “We’re also working with Bank of the West to offer a similar class to parents of members of The Hope-Fremont.
The bank recently presented a gift of $7,500 to The Hope Center for Kids to support youth programming.
Youth are learning how to manage their money.
“In our career class, our youth are learning the skills to get a job and keep a job, so once they’ve earned income, our hope is that they’ll know how to make good financial decisions for the rest of their lives, because of these financial literacy classes,” Renter said.
Stephanie Tedy, the bank’s regional community affairs officer, also stressed the importance of the classes.
“Young people today are active consumers with a variety of retail experiences available to them — in-stores, online and through mobile apps,” Tedy said. “With so many decisions about how and where to spend their money, early financial education continues to be an important life-long lesson.”
Bank employees help in other ways.
“Besides the online financial education curriculum that lets students learn at their own pace, our bank team members have supported Hope Center for Kids as volunteer teachers and mentors,” Tedy said.
Renter already is seeing positive results.
“They (the youth) are starting to enjoy the classes more as they continue to develop and build relationships with the people teaching them,” he told the Tribune. “I think they’ll truly start seeing the benefits from the program.”
Renter said the center just purchased 20 new Chromebooks, laptop computers.
“We’re really starting to utilize those with the Bank of the West and their program,” he said. “I think the program will start taking off with the new technology that we keep getting.”
Renter also complimented Bank of the West for providing an ethnically diverse group of people to work with the Hope Center youth.
“It’s good for our Hispanic population to have Hispanic volunteers helping and teaching these things,” he said. “They’ve done a really great job of that.”