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Humane Society of the United States aerial survey of devastated southeast Texas reveals thousands of stranded cattle

Two-day aerial survey did not show large numbers of dogs or horses visible from the air

Media Contact: Samantha Miller: 240-672-2361, smiller@humanesociety.org

Editor's Note, Sept. 7: 

The National Guard is conducting hay drops via a Chinook helicopter to feed stranded cattle and equine in southeast Texas so the animals can survive until the waters recede and they can be reached by land.

The Humane Society of the United States gave geographic coordinates of distressed cattle it observed during an aerial survey to the authorities who provide the National Guard with mission assignments for hay distribution.

HSUS personnel conducted the aerial survey last weekend across large portions of southeast Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The survey revealed thousands of cattle in various states of distress, with hundreds of cattle stranded on high ground, brackish water encircling them. See the aerial footage and photos of the hay feed drops here.

The HSUS worked with Equine Rescue of Aiken and Greater Good to get the hay distributed to the livestock and equine in need.

An aerial survey conducted by personnel with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) this weekend across large portions of southeast Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey revealed thousands of cattle in various states of distress, with hundreds of cattle stranded on high ground, water encircling them. The survey did not reveal large numbers of roaming or dead dogs or horses. The HSUS is releasing aerial footage today from flights on Saturday and Sunday that reveal heartbreaking circumstances for stranded cattle.

“While we know that thousands of pets and the people who care about them have been dealt a terrible blow by Hurricane Harvey, cattle are also suffering, and substantially so,” said Dr. Dickie Vest, D.V.M., senior medical director of the HSUS’ Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, the nation’s biggest large animal sanctuary, located in Murchison, Texas.

Today, The HSUS is announcing that it is prepared to assist the existing response to bring water and food to cattle and equines in distress. The Texas Animal Health Commission, the state agency tasked with this response effort, is doing what it can to respond. Dr. Vest and HSUS senior state director Katie Jarl have reached out to Texas agriculture leaders and offered assistance.  Cattle and equine owners should continue to contact TAHC to request assistance, so that it can be coordinated in the most efficient manner.

“At HSUS, we care about all animals, and that includes animals raised for food,” added Dr. Vest, a native Texan who grew up on a ranch and went to the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “We know that farmers and ranchers are deeply concerned about the well-being of lost and stranded cattle, and we want to help them and to relieve the suffering of the animals to the greatest extent practicable.”

Dr. Vest has noted that there are three primary threats facing the animals: a lack of fresh water, limited accessibility to food in severely flooded pastures, and stress related to these environmental circumstances.

“Cattle can go without food for a number of days, but they cannot go without fresh water,” added Dr. Vest. “In areas where there was an ocean surge, the water that they are surrounded by or standing in may be too brackish, and that creates a life-threatening crisis for them. We also understand that the stress that these animals are experiencing today will directly impact their health status over the next several months and we aim to relieve as much of this stress as we can by enabling these animals to access fresh water and quality forage immediately.”

The HSUS consulted with Dr. Temple Grandin, the nationally renowned animal scientist from Colorado State, before reaching out to key players in the Texas livestock industry. She said, “Assisting cattle in these situations is doable, but it’s complicated and it’s critical to have the right equipment and a careful approach so as not to compound the problem by unnecessarily stressing the animals. One of my concerns is that stranded cattle close to the coast may be in brackish, salty water that is bad for them to drink.”

“All of us around the nation have the people and animals of Texas in our hearts,” said Will Harris, a farmer who operates White Oak Pastures in south Georgia and is a member of the HSUS National Agriculture Advisory Council. “We at The HSUS want to help ranchers and their animals in this exceedingly difficult time, and we know many of the animals are in crisis.”

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