SALEM, Mass. — Violet, a Chihuahua mix, shivered in Mike Keiley’s arms on Monday outside Northeast Animal Shelter.
“She’s a little sweetheart,” said Keiley, the Salem shelter’s interim director who is also the adoption and programs director for MSPCA. “You can see that she’s a little bit of a cuddle bug here, and she’s certainly going to be a good lap dog. She is shivering away because she is not used to living in a winter state.”
On Feb. 23, four shelter staff members along with four staffers from MSPCA-Angell packed up and traveled 4,000 miles roundtrip to Austin, Texas, to rescue Violet and 90 other cats and dogs from an area devastated by historic snow, cold weather and massive power outages.
After experiencing the tough conditions resulting from the unprecedented weather and a three-day drive to Massachusetts, the pets are finally ready to find their new families, said Keiley, during an event on Monday.
Keiley said the pets will be spread across Northeast Animal Shelter and MSPCA locations in Salem, Methuen, Boston and Cape Cod.
“These animals were all animals that were in shelters that were either damaged or overwhelmed by the number of animals coming in,” he said while holding Ember, another dog who made the trip from Texas. “We offered to help.”
As Keiley spoke, Ember ran excitedly around his legs.
“Today, all of the dogs and cats that came are getting medically checked and then they’ll be cleared from their 48-hour quarantine and isolation,” Keiley explained. The pets can be adopted as soon as they are confirmed not to have any contagious diseases or other health problems. “Then they will be ready to go home to new families.”
Multiple animals rescued from Texas became eligible for adoption on Tuesday, and according to Northeast Animal Shelter Adoptions Manager Jenna Bradley, three cats and two dogs — including Violet — were adopted before the day was over.
“By the weekend she’ll be at her new home,” Bradley said, adding that the organization has been inundated with hundreds of adoption inquiries related to the pets brought up from Texas.
Not all 61 cats and 30 dogs will be available for adoption on Tuesday, Keiley said. Some animals have minor health issues that need to be dealt with before going home with a new family. Others are still being spayed, neutered and microchipped. Keiley said anyone interested in donating to the care of these pets can do so at neas.org/texas.
He estimated the cost of bringing the animals up from Texas and their subsequent care will cost somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000.
According to Keiley, many shelters in Texas were experiencing difficulty getting water, electricity and heat into their buildings. Thousands of animals were in need of a place to go after being displaced by the unprecedented cold.
“Texas is already really overpopulated with homeless animals, so as soon as this issue happened, so many more animals needed to come into shelter systems,” he said. “They were overwhelmed with the number of animals that they were receiving, especially with their limited resources. Plus all of their own personal lives and their staffs’ lives were impacted by this storm in the middle of a pandemic. There’s so many different things going on on top of this that made it even more challenging.”
Keiley explained that some animals, like Whiskey the German shepherd, were already in the shelter system before the storm hit.
“Dogs like Whiskey were already looking for homes and not having any luck where there’s so many homeless animals in Texas,” he said. “So we relieve a little bit of their stress by getting these animals up to us and into a place where there’s so many people looking for adoptable animals right now in Massachusetts.”
Keiley said the pets will need some to acclimate to life here.
“We don’t have complete histories on all of them, so people just need to have some time and patience to let them acclimate to life up here,” he said. “They’re probably a little disappointed that they got out of their first snowstorm and back into a snowy area, but they’ll adjust pretty quickly. Overall, they’re just great pets looking for good families that are patient for them.”
About the animals
The 30 dogs and rescued from Texas shelters represent a lot of mixed breeds. Here are a few:
Cattle dog mix