There’s no shortage of love shown by Torontonians for 39 rescued dogs from flood-ravaged Houston as they arrived in the city last Monday.
“We’ve received a couple of hundreds of applications (even though) not all of the dogs have been made available yet,” said Nicole Simone, founder of Redemption Paws.
Simone has been rescuing dogs in North America for more than 10 years. The dog photographer and canine welfare advocate established Redemption Paws this summer to help dog shelters and rescue organizations impacted by natural disasters, such as the unprecedented storm that hit Houston and other parts of Texas in the last week of August.
Hurricane Harvey has put a strain on shelters and rescue groups in a city that was already overwhelmed by homeless dogs even before the hurricane.
— Nicole Simone (@nicolesimone) August 28, 2017
Simone launched a GoFundMe campaign in late August, aiming to bring humanitarian supplies to the affected area, and ultimately transport some of the dogs to Toronto.
The public responded well to the campaign. Curtis Cluett, one of the volunteers, said they were able to increase the number of transportation vans from one to three. The convoy left Toronto on Sept. 7.
“The ride down there was about 24 hours,” Cluett told The Toronto Observer Thursday, adding that the drivers took turns sleeping.
— Redemption Dogs (@RedemptionDogs) September 8, 2017
On the day of the pick up on Sept. 9, the team pulled up at a Walmart parking area in Houston.
“It was incredible seeing how many people came out there.”
“I didn’t know really know too much what to expect. We got there early so we can set up all of our stuff,” Cluett said. “People started showing up, and more people started showing up, more dogs started showing up. It was incredible seeing how many people came out there.”
Cluett said some of the dogs would have been euthanized if they didn’t take them — something that weighed heavily on his mind.
“Obviously we’re trying to take as many as we can to Canada. If we don’t take these dogs, what does this mean for the animals, right? That was one of the hardest parts for me,” said the freelance web designer.
In the end, they were able to load 39 dogs into the three “temperature controlled” vans.
— Redemption Dogs (@RedemptionDogs) September 9, 2017
The drive back to Toronto was closer to 36 hours, according to Cluett.
“… you can’t stop and check in to a hotel with 39 dogs.”
“The primary reason being you can’t stop and check in to a hotel with 39 dogs. We had to stop every few hours. We would unload the dogs. Trying to feed them, run them, tire them a little bit, give them some exercise, food, water, some pets — so they can still feel some love,” he said.
— Redemption Dogs (@RedemptionDogs) September 10, 2017
Cluett said by the time they got to the Canadian border, the team was just emotionally and physically exhausted.
Nine of the furry animals were dropped off at the Welland SCPA and the rest went to the Ontario SCPA in Stouffville. The dogs, which include a Chihuaha, Dalmatian, Labradors, and Great Danes, had to be immediately quarantined for up to two weeks before they can be adopted to ensure that they’re free from diseases.
“It’s good practice to keep them for 10-14 days, period. That’s an observation period as well to see if anything incubating or pops up in terms of disease or infection,” said Tanya Firmage, chief of humane programs and community outreach with the Ontario SPCA.
— OSPCA (Ontario SPCA) (@OntarioSPCA) September 13, 2017
Separating with the dogs has proven to be difficult for the volunteers.
“We’ve grown attached to these guys. We walked them, pet them, spent time with them, talked to them while they’re in the car. Now we just had to leave them in isolation for 10 days. It’s really, really hard,” said Cluett.
Some of the volunteers even broke down in tears.
“Seeing three grown men just bawling their eyes out over these dogs, it’s definitely one of the stranger… more heartbreaking experiences I’ve had in my life,” he said.
Still, Cluett is confident that the dogs will find what the adoption industry calls their “forever homes.”
“The goal of the trip is to give them a home. We are in a very unique position where we can find homes that are willing to accommodate these dogs,” he said.
The campaign has raised more than $31,000. Those interested in adopting the rescued dogs have to complete the following application.