The three days Miranda Lambert spent helping clear out animal shelters in the hurricane-ravaged Houston area this week was beyond hard work, she said. It was “heart work.”
Lambert wants to be clear: She and her MuttNation Foundation did not take pets from the streets that were displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Lambert and MuttNation Foundation partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to help empty local animal shelters of adoptable pets that were there before the hurricane to make room for the pets that are lost or homeless following the disaster.
“Peoples’ dogs are running around loose, and there’s hundreds and hundreds of them,” Lambert said. “At your highest point of exhaustion, you still keep going three more hours because every little face in there needs you.”
Lambert and the MuttNation Foundation team made sure the animals were vetted, then loaded as many cats and dogs as they could safely fit into air-conditioned rigs to transport them about seven hours to affiliated facilities in Tulsa, and MuttNation’s base in Bixby, Okla. From there, the animals will be sent to shelters with available space around the country. As soon as the rigs delivered one load of animals to Oklahoma — approximately 70 pets at a time — they drove back to the Houston area to pick up another load.
“It’s very much a team effort,” Lambert said. “I think everybody else that is a mom-and-pop organization like we are is banding together with the Humane Society of the United States to make sure that local peoples’ dogs have those spaces to wait for their families. It was incredible to see people working together. All the emotions are just running so high. It’s a feeling I’ve never had before. I wish we could do more. We just ran out of resources.”
The Texas native was in Ireland when Hurricane Harvey crashed into Texas shore. She got home to Nashville at 9 p.m. the Monday night afterward and was on an 11:30 a.m. American Airlines flight headed to Texas the next morning. At the same time, MuttNation’s rigs were sitting on the side of a road outside of a Houston shelter that was surrounded by floodwaters. Two hundred dogs and four people had been trapped in the shelter for four days. The animal shelter’s director scoured the backroads in his truck in an effort to find a clear pathway to the facility. Hours later, the rigs were able to access the shelter. They saved 72 dogs that night. Lambert said that as trucks took the pets to Tulsa the next morning, desperate calls came in from other Houston-area shelters needing help. By the end of the week, Lambert’s MuttNation Foundation had pulled more than 230 animals from the shelters and with the help of Tulsa Humane, transported them to their own safe, well-equipped shelters.
“It’s so overwhelming, the whole scheme of what a natural disaster can cause,” Lambert said. “No matter how much you smile for one good moment, there’s a heaviness that just won’t leave. I think it’s going to be here for a long time.”
Lambert knows people want to help and she said financial donations are always needed. However, she said just going to a local shelter and spending time with the adoptable dogs is a huge help, too. She explained that the more the shelter dogs are around people, the easier it is to adopt them out. When that dog goes to its forever home, it opens a kennel in the shelter for an animal from Houston.
The country singer’s bus got back to Nashville Saturday morning with Lambert — and two extra dogs aboard. She brought a Chihuahua home for a friend and The Oak Ridge Boys’ William Lee Golden is adopting a puppy from the area. The singer and her foundation left Texas Friday when it became impossible to get fuel to transport animals out of the area. Lambert said there isn’t a fuel shortage, but that people panicked, bought all of the gas and the stations that do have fuel also have lines several hours long.
Lambert hopes MuttNation Foundation can provide more aid to the Houston area in the future.
“I saw a lot of people coming together and it was a really beautiful thing because it wasn’t about anything but humans helping humans and humans helping animals,” Lambert said. “The whole division of the country, politics, anything that’s going on goes out the window and it makes you believe in humanity again. We remember what’s important and we remember to love people.”