Stranded pets keep Houston SPCA busy after Hurricane Harvey

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For a week, Annabelle had the house to herself.

First, she lay claim to the main bedroom, where she lounged uninterrupted. Then her food began to run out and brown water flooded into the first floor below.

By Day 7, she was hungry, restless and scared.

By Day 8, when rescuers arrived by boat at the west Houston home to scoop her up, Annabelle was one angry cat.

That was all Chris McClurkin, 65, needed to hear to identify her pet of 14 years.

“Oh! That’s definitely her — that’s Annabelle!” she said, after learning about the rescue. “She’s persnickety. Spoiled, probably.”

Annabelle was among hundreds of animals arriving at the Houston SPCA shelter on Portway Drive this week as waters from Hurricane Harvey began receding. Some were left behind by owners who thought evacuation orders would last only a few days. Others escaped during the storms and were taken in by neighbors.

“We have everything but alligators,” said Lisa Tynan, community outreach manager.

A few suffered from serious heat exhaustion, or were feared sick from the rancid floodwaters. But most were in good health, SPCA officials said. They will be held at the shelter or in foster care until they can be reunited with their owners.

SPCA officials expect the flow of animals to increase in coming days.

Joseph Cox arrived at the shelter with four dogs he took in after the storm. A week with the animals was enough, he said.

“We’re not dog people,” he said.

He kept a tight grip on leashes with two long-haired, brown dogs, while two tiny, chocolate-colored puppies lay on the floor next to him.

Cox and his wife wanted to get rid of them before their kids came back home and pleaded otherwise.

Nearby, Cheyenne Vickers, 9, was falling fast for one of the little ones.

“He just looks like a Rex,” she said with a smirk, as her parents dropped off a pregnant cat they had found near their home.

Rex rolled onto her lap. Her smile widened, but her family couldn’t take another dog.

In Fort Bend County last week, pets were also on the minds of residents evacuated from the flooded Cinco Ranch neighborhood, where dozens pleaded with emergency personnel to be allowed back in to save their animals.

The empty pet carriers and tears weighed on officers.

“We’ve been answering the same question a million times,” said Patrick Douglas, an investigator with the sheriff’s office. “It sucks. It’s not easy to tell them. … But it’s flooded. It’s life or death.”

By Thursday, however, the water and mood had calmed, and officials escorted overjoyed residents by boat to their stranded pets.

Kristofer Swanson, 37, emerged from the water with a grin and white rabbits. He was flanked by three officers carrying snakes.

“I’m happy,” he said. “The bunnies and snakes are happy. The house? Screwed. But all the things with hearts got out.”

Back at the SPCA shelter, Annabelle arrived after being evacuated Tuesday from her home near Memorial Drive.

When her owner, McClurkin, left her three days into the storm, water was barely topping the curb.

When McClurkin came back a day later, the water was too high to go inside. Annabelle was stranded in a home that would eventually take on about three feet of water.

McClurkin was distraught.

“I was so scared what we’d find when we came back,” she said, just after SPCA crews pulled Annabelle from the home.

Chris Kendrick, with the Harris County Precinct 1 constable’s office, was among those who swept in to save the white, long-haired feline.

She spent the week trudging through floodwaters looking for leftover pets before arriving in a dinghy with two SPCA investigators.

Annabelle was OK when Kendrick arrived. Persnickety, but fine.

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