Right next to the Chinook helicopters and soldiers of the real U.S. Army at Houston Executive Airport gathered a less official army made up of organizations big and small, local and national. Though their origins were different, the groups' goal is the same.
“We’re getting [these animals] out of wet Texas so they can find forever homes and we’re clearing out the shelters,” said Karen Halligan, the chief veterinary officer of The Lucy Pet Foundation.
Soon enough, the dozens of dogs and cats sitting in crates on the tarmac would be someone's pet. Before that could happen they were catalogued, organized and loaded on a plane headed to New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey.
“The people receiving them are just so excited and filled with love. We see them petting them and loving on them. It’s a really good feeling,” said Monica Ailey, president of Texas-based Animal Investigation & Response.
The animals came from shelters in Houston, but also in spots such as Brazoria County and Beaumont, places where the demand for veterinary care has been overwhelming this past week.
“I had seven veterinarians the other day triaging. She had 400 animals and no veterinarian,” Halligan described. “It was sad.”
Throughout the course of the morning, crews loaded crate after crate onto the plane, provided by Wings of Rescue. The effort itself was paid for by Greater Good.
Once the last would-be pet was loaded, the plane took off, heading for the Northeast. Even though they've done this before - they've said goodbye to more than 700 animals since Harvey hit - these volunteers admitted the tears will flow.
“You just watch until you can’t see them anymore and you just know they’re going to good places,” Ailey said, choking up. “We’re all going to cry, but it will be tears of joy,” added Halligan.
The organizers pointed out that none of the animals on the plane were impacted by Harvey. They were already in shelters before the storm hit.