Tropical Storm Allison kills 35,000 lab animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2001:

HOUSTON–Flash-flooding caused by Tropical Storm Allison killed an estimated 30,000 animals between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m. on June 9 at the Baylor College of Medicine, and killed 4,700 more at the nearby University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center.

The UT losses included several hundred rabbits, 78 monkeys used mostly in longterm intelligence research, and 35 dogs. Most of the other animal victims were mice and rats. The flooding revealed an unforseen weakness in the design of the two basement animal care facilities.

Since the mid-1980s, most new animal laboratories have been built below ground to minimize the risks of intrusion, escape, noises and smells disturbing neighbors, and the accidental release of “hot” viruses or genetically modified organisms. However, even the handful of research personnel who rushed to the Houston labs to try to save some of the animals were reportedly unable to find a way in through the floodwaters, which apparently poured in through all access points.
The Houston SPCA and Houston Humane Society took in all the animals they could hold and set up mobile units to hold more, receiving 75-100 dogs per day for about 10 days, as 20,000 homes were temporarily evacuated and at least 10,000 were damaged.

The Houston animal shelters made room for the influx by airlifting about 60 dogs who had been awaiting adoption to the Denver Dumb Friends League, and then sending others to shelters as far away as Marin County, California; Atlanta; and Broward County, Flordia. Cooperating airlines reportedly donated the transportation.

Tropical Storm Allison also socked Louisiana, but there the major animal-related effect was that high water distributed at least 40 alligators to parts of St. John the Baptist and St. Charles Parishes where they posed a potential risk to human residents. Animal control officers relocated most of the alligators back to their swamps.

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