Deana Sellens, the Executive Director of Texas Litter Control (TLC), was kind enough to speak with Onpets about TLC and the work she and the organization are currently doing in Houston to help Hurricane Harvey’s four-legged victims. We thank her for taking the time, in spite of the fact that not only did she lose both her home and her car to the storm, but the TLC cat sanctuary was wiped out. Read her Hurricane Harvey front line report and find out what you can do to help:
How did TLC get started?
Ironically, Texas Litter Control was started in an 800 square foot FEMA trailer. We were established in September of 2012 and we raised funds to buy the trailer and equipment through private donations. We opened the doors of our high volume spay/neuter clinic in February 2013. We outgrew the trailer and ended up renting a 3,200 square foot trailer two years ago in July. We’ve performed more than 35,000 surgeries to date. We established our cat adoption program in 2014. We are now in 8 retail stores performing over 1,000 adoptions per year. We also had a cat sanctuary which was home to displaced ferals, FIV+, FeLV+ and cats with medical issues.
How has Hurricane Harvey impacted TLC?
The Hurricane completely wiped out our cat sanctuary. The cats are being trapped and relocated to temporary enclosures until we can find a new property. The property took on over 12 feet of water. It wiped out the well and the entire first floor of the house, leaving it uninhabitable. The spay/neuter clinic also took on a foot of water so we are scrambling to get it back up and running. The clinic supports our entire organization. In spite of everything, we have managed to progress very quickly. We moved every bit of the equipment out the day after the water went down. The sheet rock has been pulled out, we hit the space with fans and dehumidifiers and the sheet rock is being replace and painted today (September 6). Tomorrow we are going to move everything back and assess the extent of the damage to the surgical equipment. We know we lost all of our furniture, cabinets, oxygen concentrators, possibly our surgical tables and a ton of consumables (suture, blades, etc.).
Do you normally work with other organizations to maximize the impact of your work and, if so, which ones and why?
We work very closely with the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. We analyze data to target high risk areas which need service the most. Here are some of our stats:
TLC Spay/Neuter Surgeries : MCAS Intakes
2012 – 0 Surgeries : 22,124 Intakes
2013 – 4,946 Surgeries : 20,837 Intakes
2014 – 6,880 Surgeries : 20,091 Intakes
2015 – 7,113 Surgeries : 17,884 Intakes
2016 – 10,077 Surgeries : 14,711 Intakes
Are you currently working with other organizations now to help Hurricane Harvey victims? If so, which ones and how is that work being coordinated?
I wish! Since we had so much damage and we had over 200 animals, we haven’t been able to help anyone. Other organizations are helping us though. The Lemur Refuge has helped us the most, but Wags to Whiskers, Guardian Pitbull Rescue and Animal Shelter Volunteers of Texas have also helped us tremendously.
What is your disaster preparedness advice for pet parents?
When not assisting during times of disaster, what services does TLC provide?
We are a high volume spay/neuter and wellness center for cats and dogs. We help people place cats into loving homes. We help disabled cats and displaced ferals. We provide sanctuary to FIV and FeLV cats. We offer assistance to pet owners needing food or basic medical help with their dogs and cats through our HelpMeKeepMyPet.com website.
Why are spay/neuter programs a critical component of animal welfare?
The numbers say it all. Since we opened, the shelter’s annual intake has gone from over 22,000 to under 14,000 animals per year. Prevention is key and having affordable and free services to those in need is critical to keeping those fur babies out of shelters.
Tell us about Mr. Pepper, Vice Piggy of Operations.
Pepper Piggy Pig is a potbelly pig who was adopted by a family who didn’t want him. I don’t know if he got too big or something else but I love pigs so we let him come hang with the kitties. He loves cats and serves as a heating pad in the winter. He weighs about 300 pounds and we did not have time to move him before the flood. We had built him a habitat on the highest point on the property, but that was under water for more than 6 hours. He somehow floated and thankfully made it alive through this mess. He is known for chasing people he doesn’t like. He thinks he is my boyfriend so he’s not too keen when people come around me. His favorite pastime is to corner the employees in the adoption prep area and not let them out.
Has your work had an impact on intake rates at shelters located in the cities where you have clinics?
Yes. See the MCAS shelter intake numbers above. We have also reduced the intake at the Conroe Animal Shelter to 700 animals per year which is a 14% reduction from last year.
How do you fund your work and if someone wanted to contribute (services, goods or money) how would they do that?
TLC can accept cash and non-cash donations like cars, boats, property, and stock. You just visit our website and click on Donate.
If you could make one thing happen to advance animal welfare, what would it be?
I would love to see better education in the veterinary community concerning FIV cats. So many shelters just kill them and that should not be happening in this day and age. Once these cats are fixed and not fighting for food, they can be a part of any family. It is OK to put them with other cats. These feline fur babies are always so sweet but the stigma in the community causes them to be put to death unnecessarily. I would love to see this practice end.
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