HOUSTON, Texas – As soon as Sayra Vallejo saw the picture of the pit bull-mastiff mix, she knew immediately that was her Max.
Vallejo hadn’t seen him for nearly three weeks after they were separated because of Hurricane Harvey. For nearly three weeks, she worried about Max and his brother, Mike, and where they might be, were they OK?
When she saw Max’s picture, and the shredded cardboard in his kennel—the automatic giveaway that was her boy—she was overcome with joy.
Even better, when she arrived at NRG Arena’s Pet Reunion Pavilion on Saturday to pick up Max, there was Mike, too. He had been transported in that morning.
“I didn’t give up. I kept looking for them,” Vallejo said. “It’s pretty cool to have found them.”
Photos: Displaced pets at NRG Arena's 'Pet Reunion Pavilion'
About 500 animals are housed at the pavilion—about 400 dogs and 100 cats—that were displaced from their families during the storm.
The Harris County Animal Shelter was inundated with displaced animals after Harvey hit. Harris County, in an effort to alleviate some the pressure on the shelter, partnered with Best Friends, a national animal organization, and opened the satellite shelter. Harris County helped secure the space at NRG Arena and Best Friends brought in veterinarians and volunteers to help care for the animals.
Each day, about 170 volunteers help walk, feed and clean out the cages of all the animals.
Best Friends has set up a webpage of photos lost pets and other resources to help find them. Holly Sizemore, the chief program officer for Best Friends, encouraged people to come in and look for their pet. Even if they’re not there, Sizemore said Best Friends has other resources that can help find them.
The cats and dogs will be housed at the pavilion for 30 days before they’re made available for adoption. Typically, the Harris County Animal Shelter places animals on a 72-hour hold before they’re put of for adoption, but because of the tragic circumstances surrounding Harvey, that time was extended.
“I think the more time we can allow people to get their feet under them, to get some normalcy back, it’s going to be better off for them to … provide a home for their pet,” said Kerry McKeel, a senior communications consultant for the Harris County Animal Shelter.
The pavilion will be holding an adoption day Oct. 14 for the remaining dogs and cats still housed at the arena.
As of Monday, 15 people have been reunited with their lost furry loved ones.
But there are many more that haven’t found their way back home. And Sizemore urges people not to lose hope.
“Don’t give up,” Sizemore said. “Look online, come see us, we know where other resources are. But if you don’t find your pet today, keep looking tomorrow, next week, next month. Just keep looking.”
Vallejo is glad she did. She could hardly contain her excitement when she saw Max’s picture on Best Friends’ website. When both of her boys walked out of the pavilion, she gave them a big hug.
“It was a really good day,” she said.