Shelter from the storm in Iowa

Three Iowa shelters join forces to help a Houston-area shelter hit by Hurricane Harvey



Emily Wangen, [email protected]

As Hurricane Harvey swept through eastern Texas, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and De Soto animal shelters teamed up to rescue nearly 50 dogs from an Alvin, Texas animal shelter.

Eight dogs were brought from the Houston area shelter to the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, a municipal animal shelter serving Iowa City, Coralville, University Heights, and unincorporated Johnson County.

“We don’t normally take animals from outside these areas, but because we were able to get so many donations from the public, we can take these [dogs] in and help them out,” shelter director Liz Ford said.

Last Hope Animal Rescue, with AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport in De Soto, were the first to arrive at Alvin Animal Adoption Center, shelter manager Autumn Miller said.

“They literally made the difference between life and death for these animals,” Miller said.

The hurricane’s impact on the shelter and the rescuing of dogs was an emotional topic for Miller; she teared up discussing the situation of the dogs in the shelter.

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“It was heartbreaking to be there,” said Amanda Rushton, the intake coordinator for Last Hope Animal Rescue. “The shelter was absolutely bursting at the seams with dogs.”

Last Hope Animal Rescue is a Cedar Rapids nonprofit rescue group that aims to be a primarily foster home. The group is 100 percent volunteer run.

Rushton said she selected dogs that were difficult to adopt from the shelter, and did so with the help of AHeinz57 Dog rescue. It felt amazing to have brought so many dogs to safety, she said, but knowing there were more dogs left behind was gut-wrenching.

She described the trip home with the dogs as slow going with plenty of stops, but noted everyone made it safe and sound.

“It was a surprisingly quiet ride home,” Rushton said, “I think the animals coming from that shelter environment likely had a sense that something was happening.”

Some of the dogs have been placed in foster homes while the others are still at the adoption center awaiting medical evaluation, she said.

“The great thing about rescuing animals is there are a lot of us out there, and we’re really good at networking with each other,” she said.

Ford said the dogs that arrived in Iowa City were relaxed and eager to make friends with people.

“One of them was a little nervous, didn’t really want to be handled, but that’s really common when animals arrive here,” she said.

Ford noted the shelter has a robust volunteer program, and they have helped with the additional animals. She started an emergency-response team of volunteers a few months before Hurricane Harvey arrived in the Gulf.

“Several of those folks were on hand Thursday night to help us, and take these dogs, and get them settled in quickly,” Ford said. “Our job is to give them good homes, and that’s what we’ll do.”

With the dogs out of the Texas shelter and the space freed up, the Alvin shelter officials have been able to focus on the incoming pets and finding their owners.

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