Dogs displaced by Hurricane Harvey are making their way to Toronto

As many as two dozen dogs are making their way from flood-ravaged Houston to this city, thanks to the efforts of a Toronto-based advocacy group called Redemption Dogs.

Houston animal shelters overwhelmed by lost pets are looking for help, organizer says

Nicole Simone, the founder of Redemption Dogs, sits with her dog Irwin. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

As the Houston area reels in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a group called Redemption Dogs is trying to help by bringing some of the pets the storm has displaced to Toronto.

With 31 people confirmed dead and 32,000 people in shelters, some have had to leave more than their homes behind. A number of American media outlets are reporting that pets are crowding animal shelters, as well.

 "Just because they don't have a home doesn't mean that they don't have a family that they can eventually belong to," Redemption Dogs founder Nicole Simone told CBC Toronto.

Simone has partnered with a Texas-based dog sanctuary, Hot Mess Pooches, which will help the Toronto volunteers find dogs in need.

A rescue helicopter hovers in the background as an elderly woman and her poodle use an air mattress to float on the flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey while waiting to be rescued.

She says Redemption Dogs volunteers will be taking pets that are already in shelters, not picking up animals off the streets. 

The Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care shipped 100 stray animals to Austin to make room as they take in lost pets. Chicago shelters have also taken in a number of strays from the city.

Mikhail Bachynsky hugs her dog Lily after they were rescued from their home Sunday in the Friendswood area of Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle/Associated Press)

Redemption Dogs goes to Houston

As many as two dozen of those dogs will be making their way to this city, thanks to the efforts of Redemption Dogs.

"In no way are we taking dogs off the street that people might be looking for," Simone said.

The effort, which has been named Redemption Dogs Goes to Houston, is meant to give relief to some of the overcrowded shelters, by giving a couple of dozen dogs homes in Canada. Simone says hers is the only group from Canada that she knows of going down to Houston to help with the effort.  

The four volunteers, who are veterinary technicians, are leaving at sunrise next Wednesday. They'll be bringing supplies for animals and people, including cleaning supplies, diapers and canned food (both for dogs and for humans).

"We want to help as many people as possible, not just animals," Simone said.

'They are valuable family members'

One of Simone's own dogs, a 10-year-old Australian cattle dog named Irwin, is from the U.S.. He lived in rural Kentucky until his owner died. Irwin ended up in Ontario as a rescue dog and the rest is history.

"I wasn't looking for a dog but he was looking for me, and so he stayed. He's a good old southern guy," Simone laughed as she gave him a squeeze.

Nicole Simone walks her two dogs, Charlie, left, and Irwin. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Redemption Dogs Goes to Houston has already raised about $2,000 to pay for medical supplies for the dogs when they get here, but Simone is still looking for drivers to take dogs from Buffalo into Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

The dogs will need foster homes once they arrive, and anyone looking to adopt a "Harvey" dog, as Simone calls them, can find out more information on the website. However, Simone reminds people that there are a lot of dogs in shelters in Toronto that need homes now.

"Dogs get people through their divorces, and sickness or the death of a family member. They are valuable family members. I hope this inspires someone to adopt a dog," said Simone.