Help for homeless pets in a grieving community

Scooter the dog, with his eyes closed, being comforted by a person's hand
Volunteer requests assistance following the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
By Kelli Harmon

“I am reaching out to you with a unique request.” That’s how the message from Sandra Ligocky began. She said she knew that shelters everywhere are dealing with an influx of pets, but added, “I think you may understand why our community is having difficulty with our ability to focus on our pets.”

A volunteer with the Humane Society of Uvalde in Texas, Sandra sent her message four days after the tragic school shooting there. “Right now,” she said, “our community is broken … We had already been at capacity and the dogs just keep coming into animal control.” Sandra’s request was for more rescue partners to take in dogs and cats from the city’s animal control facility. It was a horrible time, and they couldn’t bear more loss.

Paula Powell, Best Friends senior strategist in the region, responded not only because she could arrange for the help requested, but because she had an idea of what people in Uvalde were facing. Paula was the director of the city animal shelter in El Paso when a mass shooting occurred there in 2019.

She says, “I have experienced a bit of what they are going through (in Uvalde), and it does affect the shelter in ways we would not even think of until it happens.” Instead of heading to the shelter to adopt pets, people were attending funerals, coping with shock and grief, and doing their best to keep going during a terrible time.

At Uvalde animal control, there were dogs and puppies needing a place to go within days, as more pets were arriving all the time. Paula arranged a grant to help fund travel costs for Uvalde pets to move to shelters and rescue groups that had the capacity to take them in.

The Best Friends team in Houston took in the dogs and puppies who needed a place to go right away, with volunteers stepping up on short notice to provide transport. The team also coordinated with other organizations that took in cats from the shelter and sent supplies. A few weeks later, the shelter was able to send 65 pets to New York rescue groups eager to find new homes for them.

Paula says it’s only the beginning: “This organization (in Uvalde) was already doing good work to assist pets in need at their local animal control, and while the shooting was an awful reason for us to connect with them, we’re excited to keep working with them on solutions for animals there long-term.” None of it is easy and it doesn’t make the grief go away. But sometimes finding the courage to keep trying, to save even just one more life, gives you a reason to keep going.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

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