ARLINGTON, Va. — Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is no stranger to the dangers that animals face in the aftermath of a hurricane. They've been partnering with overburdened shelters to perform emergency transports since the hurricane trifecta -- Harvey, Irma and Maria -- in 2017.
The challenge for Lucky Dog, as an all-foster organization, is to ensure they have enough fosters and resources to rescue any pet they commit to taking.
In 2017, following the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, Lucky Dog founder Mirah Horowitz heard about an organization called San Antonio Pets Alive who was driving their own van to Houston to relieve shelters who were past capacity, and bringing animals back to their facilities in San Antonio. Once they were overpopulated themselves, San Antonio Pets Alive began to seek partners along the East Coast.
"We learned of them and just thought, 'hey we'll help," Horowitz said. "That was our first entree if you will."
Once Horowitz realized what her team was capable of on such short notice, they immediately mobilized again when Hurricane Irma began making headlines.
"We actually did an evacuation transport in advance of Irma," Horowitz said. "And the shelter we worked with ended up flooded during the storm so it was a very good thing we got them out."
By the time Hurricane Maria was threatening the Caribbean, Lucky Dog was feeling confident in what was needed in advance of emergency evacuations. But the island nature of a Maria rescue posed a new challenge: how do you evacuate animals when you can't just drive in and scoop them up?
"You couldn't just send trucks down to pick up these animals," Horowitz said. "So I reached out to the CEO of Southwest Airlines who I had read did a flight rescue after Hurricane Harvey and they agreed to do a flight for us after Maria."
Now with Hurricane Laura continuing to intensify, and experts calling for "nonsurvivable tidal damage" along the Texas-Louisiana border, Lucky Dog has partnered with the Petco Foundation, Houston PetSet, Wings of Rescue and five other rescue organizations to coordinate a massive airplane evacuation of more than 130 cats and dogs.
Twenty of the animals -- 10 dogs and 10 cats -- made their way to Arlington, Virginia Wednesday night thanks to Lucky Dog volunteers. They were greeted by their eager foster families, and all 20 animals will be available for adoption through Lucky Dog in the coming days.
Horowitz said that while each of her emergency rescue missions has been a little different in nature, the biggest thing she's learned is "no one can go it alone."
"It truly takes a village and a network, and you have to know your own limits," Horowitz said. "We never want to over commit, especially since we don't have a dedicated facility and need fosters for each of our animals. We always make sure we can accommodate the animals we are rescuing."
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The one silver lining of COVID, at least for Lucky Dog, has been an abundance of new foster families since the onset of the pandemic.
"This is the first time I've ever responded to a natural disaster where I wasn’t super worried about being able to find fosters for all of the animals," Horowitz said. "We learned about this transport yesterday. Last year if you had said, 'we're going to ask you to bring in 10 dogs and 10 cats and you're going to know nothing about any of them until about six hours before the plane lands,' I would have had to say that's not a good fit for us. But now it is because we have foster resources."
You can learn more about Lucky Dog, and various COVID-safe volunteer opportunities within the organization, here.