ROCKFORD — It's been just over two weeks since Hurricane Harvey struck the coast of Texas, but it could be another two to four weeks before most of Rockford's four-legged refugees find their forever homes.
Hundreds of animal shelters across the country have opened their doors for pets displaced in Hurricane Harvey and Rockford is no exception, but for the 33 dogs and nine cats relocated to Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary, few arrived healthy.
"Based on their health and that they came from all the way from Texas, we don’t have a lot of background," said Alma Ledesma, assistant office manager for Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary. "Everything they have is completely treatable. How long it's going to take all depends on how healthy their immune system is."
Noah's Ark partnered with Operation Bring Animals Home, a national animal search and rescue team, to send a truckload of pets supplies to Houston, as well as open its doors to animals affected by Harvey and subsequent flooding. Hurricane Irma struck Florida this week, but shelter manager Stephanie Lauer said it's still too early to know if pet relocations from Florida will be necessary.
Nearly all of the dogs from Texas came here with some sort internal or external parasite, and all of the cats needed to be spayed or neutered, said veterinarian Jane Fluegel, of Noah's Ark Animal Hospital.
"A lot of them have heartworm disease, intestinal parasites, several skin diseases like demodectic mange," she said. "A lot of these dogs probably lived outside and were exposed to mosquitoes, which carry heartworm.
"A lot of parasites are prevalent down south because it's warm all year. Up here we have a winter and a lot of things get killed off but down south they multiply in a warmer environment."
Fluegel said the shelters in Houston began treating some of the animals, but there's no way to tell for how long.
The New York Times reports that many of the pets left behind were abandoned in homes, chained to trees or left to strangers and animal shelters. As for the dogs and cats now residing in Rockford, most had been admitted to Texas shelters long before the storm and were relocated to make room for local rescues to be claimed by their owners.
Ledesma said most if not all of the dogs will need to be fostered in order to get the individualized care they need prior to adoption. The shelter put out a call for foster applicants on Facebook, and was met with "a big turnout" of willing applicants. Once each animal has a clean bill of health, regular adoption policies apply.
Lauer said no requests for relocating pets from Hurricane Irma have been issued yet but if the time comes, "our doors are always open."
Kayli Plotner: 815-987-1391; firstname.lastname@example.org; @kayplot
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