By Paula Ann Solis
Several West residents are continuing the search for missing loved ones after last week’s deadly explosion, and for some people those loved ones included four-legged friends.
Following the explosion on April 17 almost 90 animals, mainly dogs and cats, were brought to the Humane Society of Central Texas, according to executive director Don Bland. Chickens, lizards and rabbits were also among those rescued. At the time of publication half of the lost animals have been reclaimed.
“The reunions have been really nice to witness,” Bland said. “These people are just elated when they find their animals. For some of them, these animals are their kids.”
However, not everyone who has come to the humane society in search of their pet has left with positive news.
“One lady from West came looking for her five cats,” Bland said. “None of them have been found yet.”
But the search is continuing. Bland said animals are being picked up by the humane society everyday and that has led to more reclaiming by West residents. However, many West residents still displaced by the explosion can’t take their pets with them.
“We just had someone come in and identify their animal but they don’t have housing,” Bland said. “We will keep her pet here until she can find housing.”
The continued boarding of animals for West residents is free, Bland said. He said normally the city of Waco charges a fine for animals picked up by animal control and after 72 hours, if an animal is unclaimed, it is placed in a kennel for adoption.
Those fines, according the city of Waco’s website, include $15 a day for boarding and $12 for rabies vaccination.
For animals picked up in West, those fees and time constraints will be waived.
The efforts by the humane society to reunite owners with their pets was only possible through a partnership with several other animal care groups in Central Texas.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Texas, located in Dallas, took overflow animals from Waco to make room for incoming West animals and the La Vega Veterinary Clinic also took animals on Wednesday night following the explosion, Bland said.
“After the incident Wednesday night, we got on the phone and we called a lot of rescue groups and the SPCA of Texas picked up 65 dogs on Thursday from us,” Bland said.
According to SPCA customer care specialist Gabrielle Smith, it was an extraordinary measure by the SPCA.
“We don’t have a transfer partnership with them,” Smith said. “We don’t automatically deploy when a shelter has overflow, but we had the available space and we decided to go.”
According to Smith, these measures are rare and reserved for disaster situations like in 2008 when Hurricane Ike passed through South Texas. The SPCA rescued more than 100 cats and dogs at that time, Smith said.
“We’re always willing to help and we take in as many as we can keep,” Smith said. The animals that have been taken to the SPCA of Texas will not be euthanized for time and space purposes, Smith said, and all animals that pass health screenings will be placed for adoption.
The willingness to help the animal population following the tragedy in West has not been reserved to organizations, according to Bland, who said numerous donations have been made to the humane society in monetary and supply form.
“We just received a package from UPS with several kitty litters,” Bland said. An anonymous donor sent the package, which is only a small representation of the generosity demonstrated since the explosion in West. Donated supplies are being given to West owners who come to claim their pets.
For those searching for lost pets, the humane society’s website, humanesocietycentraltexas.org, and the organizations Facebook page have links to pet images. The humane society is working under special hours for West residents. For more information, call 254-754-1454.