As the reports, video footage and pictures of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike continue to wing their way around the globe, our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Texas and the emergency personnel who have been assisting in the relief effort. Of particular note are the staff, volunteers and animals of Galveston Island Humane Society, which was completely destroyed by Ike.
While we are headquartered approximately 1,500 miles away, we were nevertheless pleased to be able to do our small part to help. On Tuesday night we were called by the Houston SPCA (which in June had begun using PetPoint) and asked to assist their disaster response team and the Galveston Island Humane Society by creating a new module for PetPoint which would aid the reunification effort for lost pets. With the Galveston Island Humane Society buildings destroyed and their staff and animals in a temporary facility with no software, the PetPoint team jumped into action by first setting them up as a new PetPoint user. Using satellite Internet and emergency generators the Galveston staff were provided with a totally configured database by 11 a.m. on Wednesday and one of our key PetPoint staff members was immediately dispatched to Houston to train the staff in how to use the application.
The next step was for us to create a public Lost and Found service module to assist in reuniting lost pets with their owners. For this, we contacted Pets911 for assistance. By 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening the PetPoint/IT team had launched the Disaster Response Pet Portal (“DRPP”). “Our staff and volunteers are working around-the-clock to rescue pets and reunite them with their families, the online database portal created by Pethealth will make it easier for us ensure they find their way home as soon as possible.” said Patricia Mercer, President of the Houston SPCA.
In the Lost and Found module in PetPoint, the Houston SPCA lost pet hotline center staff have real time access to all the intake information entered by the Galveston staff. Houston staff can now immediately match reports of lost pets to new intakes in Galveston. The public can also view those pets on the DRPP which is hosted on Pets911.com (which is updated every 15 minutes from PetPoint) and notify hotline staff. Once a match is made, the Houston staff immediately place a “hold” on the animal through PetPoint, thus eliminating the chance that a lost pet will be adopted out, as happened in a number of cases after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Houston SPCA and Galveston Island Humane Society are not the only ones who have been able to benefit from the power of PetPoint during this hurricane season. Since July 1st, hundreds of animals have been transferred between over a dozen animal welfare organizations in Texas using the PetPoint animal transfer module as these same organizations prepared themselves in advance of oncoming hurricanes.
This module, created in 2007, allows for a smooth paperless transfer of animal information between organizations: “The PetPoint Transfer Module enabled our animal rescuers to save valuable administrative time during these operations; time which was much better spent caring for our new guests.” says Katherine Bice, Executive Director for Humane Society SPCA Bexar County which has taken in hundreds of animals from both Gustav and Ike.
SPCA of Texas has evacuated over 500 animals from the Gulf Coast in recent weeks. Ann Barnes, Senior Vice President of Operations explains: “From Houston alone, we’ve transferred 108 animals. Without the help of PetPoint’s Transfer Module, our staff would have spent several hours re-creating kennel cards and animal records. Additionally, the module also made it easy for us to transfer records to the other shelters that received animals from us”.
As indicated in our e-mail of this week to all Texas shelters, we have also auto-extended all ShelterCare gifts from our Texas PetPoint users from 30 to 45 days for the remainder of the month to give new adopters in the affected area some extra coverage.
We are happy that we were able to assist Houston SPCA in their disaster response effort and look forward to working with our new PetPoint user Galveston Island Humane Society as it works to rebuild and continue with its valuable work in Galveston. The Houston initiative has underlined the power and versatility of PetPoint as a tool for those in the animal welfare community to use in both good times and bad. As the community of PetPoint users continues to grow we look forward to working with each of you to provide you with the help, assistance and options that you need to work ever more efficiently and cost effectively.