INCLINE VILLAGE - Pet Network is standing "at the ready" to receive animals orphaned by Hurricane Katrina as soon as next week.
Officials from the Incline Village nonprofit have already volunteered their services with the Houston SPCA.
"Right now, we're preparing and waiting for the word about what we need to do and how to jump in," Pet Network Executive Director Steve Ricker said. "Whatever we can do to help."
Alice Sarmiento, Houston SPCA's Director of Development and Community Outreach, said the shelter has received a "trickling in" of 900 animals. The shelter is busy trying to re-unite this first wave of homeless animals with their owners.
An additional 1,500 to 2,000 animals will arrive at the shelter early next week.
"We're just bracing for the flood of animals - pardon the pun," Sarmiento said. "Once we establish a holding time for them to be claimed by owners, we'll start contacting agencies on the West Coast and elsewhere for their help."
Houston SPCA's holding time for animals before they are cleared to be adopted or shipped elsewhere will be between five to seven days Sarmiento said.
"We've been working with our adoption partners in the area to make room at our facility, and they've been awesome with that," Sarmiento said. "But starting next week, we're going to rely a lot on partners from throughout the country."
Ricker said Pet Network has already secured the services of at least one local veterinarian to examine the animals.
At the same time, emergency space is being cleared at the facility, local volunteers are arranging to act as temporary homes for the animals and pilots from the area are encouraged to volunteer their services for possible extrication of the animals from Houston.
"We're getting ready to mobilize on this, but it's going to take plenty of extra involvement from the community," Ricker said.
With estimates that there are between 20,000 and 50,000 stray or orphaned animals in the Gulf Coast region, Ricker said he understands getting animals out here may be a long process, especially since the focus is reuniting as many pets as possible.
"It hits home on all fronts," he said. "Oftentimes during a disaster people will not leave their homes because of their pets. Now, in the wake of the storm, all some people might have left is their animals. In some cases, that may be all the family that's left."
While volunteering services, Pet Network is also starting a partnership program with Animal Rescue Team in Northern Nevada. The program, which runs through Washoe County Sheriff's Department in Reno, allows trained participants access to animals in rescue or emergency situations.
"We want to have people trained in case of an event here," Ricker said. "We're hoping to become part of that team in the coming months."
For now though, the focus is on helping the animals left homeless by Katrina find homes.
"If needed, we'll try to take up to 50 animals," Ricker said. "It may not sound like a lot but anything we can do at this point to help."
Houston SPCA officials encouraged local residents to make a financial donation by visiting www.houstonspca.org. Contact Pet network at 775-832-4404 or visit www.petnetwork.org