Lost and found Harvey pets in new central listing

Ohio veterinarian single-handedly collects entries

September 7, 2017 (published)
By Edie Lau

Found pig
Facebook screen shot
The central Harvey lost-and-found site includes a photo and link to this posting on the Facebook page of Hurricane Harvey Animal Rescue Needs & Offers to Help: "This pig was found struggling to stay afloat in 4 feet of flood waters off of 1442 in Orangefield. Looks to be around 40-50 pounds."

She wanted to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, but as the sole veterinarian at a clinic she owns in Ohio, Dr. Melanie Butera couldn't just up and leave for Texas, 1,300 miles away.

Then, in the middle of a night shortly after the storm struck on Aug. 25, inspiration came: She could help reunite pets with their families by consolidating the multiple disparate lost-and-found listings that surfaced in the wake of the Category 4 hurricane.

"There's so many, so many. And every one is heartbreaking," Butera said.

As of Thursday afternoon, she'd catalogued 669 — mostly dogs and cats, plus horses and an occasional rabbit, pig or snake — with hundreds, maybe thousands, more to go.

"I visit 50 different Facebook pages, Craigslist, Lost My Doggie and Fido Finder and Tabby Tracker. There's Pet Amber Alert, HomeAgain ... " Butera rattled off.

Butera works on the database, Lost and Found Pets from Hurricane Harvey (Texas), a couple of hours in the early morning, a couple of hours at night, and between patients during the day. She plans to devote the coming weekend to the effort, by the end of which time she expects to exceed 1,000 entries.

Fortunately, she already had a structure for the database. Butera previously consolidated pet lost-and-found listings in her community. The project required generating HTML code, a new undertaking for her, "so that took me a little while to figure out," she said. That database ended up with 10,000 listings.

Having a setup available for Harvey helped considerably, but the project is laborious nevertheless. Some listings consist of photos with little to no descriptive text. So in addition to cutting and pasting, Butera is adding species, breed, location lost or found, and any other information she can glean.

"The dog population there is very different from our population here," she observed. "They've got cattle dogs, cattle-dog mixes ... Sometimes I look at the breed and I don't even know what it is."

Some animals appear more than once, being posted on multiple sites. Butera hasn't had time to remove duplicates but intends to.

In the process of reviewing postings, Butera has been struck by the outpouring of giving to the rescue effort.

A number of entries she derived from a collection of photographs taken by someone at a vast staging ground for animals in Montgomery County, Texas. "How do they have the cages for all these animals? How do they have the people to take care of them?" she marveled. "It's all volunteers. It's amazing."

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