Citizens for Avian Protection

History of CAP - Houston

Julie Allen


Julie Allen has been providing rescue and rehabilitation for birds since 1977. In 2003, she founded CAP — Houston a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas, whose goal is to educate prospective bird owners as well as rescue, rehabilitate, and re-house unwanted or abused birds.

Hurricane Rita

In 2005, Hurricane Rita totally destroyed the CAP - Houston facility. Read the story of Lisa, the woman who found a way to help against all odds:

"I had spoken to Julie on Wednesday, September 21st, and she told me she had arranged for the rental of two trailers and would like to come to my home as they were being evacuated from the Houston area as a precaution. Of course, I agreed, for her safety as well as the safety of the birds.

"As the hurricane got closer to Texas, I became concerned when I spoke to her on Friday at 5:00 pm. The truck rental company was not going to honor her payment, and did not have any vehicles left. She was frantic to say the least. I told her to calm down and I would help her.

"I immediately called a friend who often helps out at our ranch, and explained that we needed to go INTO the Hurricane path to rescue the birds. I told him we needed to 'fly to Houston' in order to get out as soon as possible.

"I called Julie back and explained that we were on the way with the Suburban and an 18-foot flatbed trailer. We hitched up the trailer and made sure that we took plenty of strapping lines, since neither of us knew what we would be hauling home.

"We left at 8:00 pm that fateful Friday night and headed into the path of Hurricane Rita. We drove toward Houston and saw that both lanes of the interstate coming from Houston were bumper to bumper cars. We flew on the wings of a prayer at 80+ miles an hour - we were the only ones going TOWARD the hurricane and had virtually no cars going our way. Houston had already started mandatory evacuations, so we decided to cut down closer to the coastal area. Every gas station along the way had a waiting line for fuel - fortunately we had gassed up prior to leaving. We changed highways, and were once again met with miles and miles of traffic trying to leave the area, but they were stopped. There were just too many people trying to use the same evacuation routes. We decided that if we were able to make it to the birds, we would not try to get home this way.

"I was navigating with my lighter and my Texas map, since neither of us had ever been to this area. We were able to proceed with no traffic toward the coast, until we found the road was barricaded by the police. We were close, but nowhere near where we needed to be, so we found an alternate route to our destination... a ranch out in the middle of nowhere with no street signs and no street lights, very rural.

"We bypassed the state police and were now driving in a ghost town, everything was boarded up and not a soul to be seen anywhere. We continued to keep in contact with Julie via cell phone and were given directions to the birds. It was now about midnight and as we approached the area the fog was so thick you could not see one car length in front of you, the air was completely still and heavy with moisture. We had to slow our pace to a snail's crawl looking for country roads that were not well marked and shrouded in the fog. We finally found the ranch and at 1:00 am started the rescue of the birds.

"Julie was waiting for us and was trying to prepare for what needed to be done, an enormous task for 100+ birds. She had secured approximately 40 carrier cages, so we proceeded to make an assembly line to put them together. She then loaded the birds into the carriers and we started stacking them in the back of the Suburban, being careful to put cardboard between them so no one got their toes bit by their neighbor. We stacked 3 carriers high to the roof and then decided we needed more room, so we put down the seat and continued to load and stack birds. We did discover that one of the Goffin Cockatoos had escaped his regular cage but we did not have time to search, so we saved what we could. The birds were freaked out to say the least; first of all they sensed the change in the weather, and then to be yanked out of their cages at 1 am to be put in a carrier - needless to say it was chaotic! After loading the birds we stripped all of their cages out of the buildings and stacked them on the trailer. We had the entire flatbed trailer stacked 12 feet high with birdcages and bits and pieces stuck here and there where it would fit. I had doubts that we could even get out of the farm with this load on the back, but my friend assured me we could make it.

"By 2:30 am we were ready to depart. With many tears and hugs of thanks, we were getting ready to go when Julie asked one last favor. Could I take her son to safety also, since she could not evacuate from her home -- she had other birds there. She said 'If I am going to die in this hurricane please save my son.' So we loaded him and his duffel bag of all of the things he wanted to save as well as 100+ birds. He was quite cramped but had a seat to safety.

"We went into the dead still of night, it had started to blow and now the fog was rolling across the streets. We headed away from the gridlock of the evacuees from Houston - heading away from the coast was our only plan but we could not get stuck in traffic and risk the lives of the precious cargo we had worked so hard to rescue. We decided to go south away from the congestion. It proved to be a wise choice since we were able to refuel with relatively no problems, however the gas pumps were set to only pump $20.00 of gas, and my truck took a lot more than that. So we used 3 different credit cards and just kept pumping until we were full for our trip home. We could only drive 50 miles an hour since our stacked and strapped cargo of cages on the back was a little questionable. We had no traffic but continued to get updates from the radio about people being stuck for 9 hours or more and traffic was stopped. They were running out of gas on the roads and it was a disaster, no one could reach them due to the gridlock of the cars.

"I knew we had made the right decision to do back country roads all the way home, and at 9:30 am Saturday we pulled into the ranch, where we had a barn designated for the rescued birds. All were removed from the Suburban and placed in the barn and given cut up oranges and apples since none of the carriers had food or water bowls. All the birds did well on the trip with the circumstances they had to face.

"Now what was I to do with the teenage son of one of my best friends? I tried to keep him calm about his mother since he was very upset. Hurricane Rita made landfall that night on our trip home but fortunately, it did not follow the projected path of a direct hit; it veered to the right. On Monday, when I took my daughter to school, I took Julie's son with me and the principal asked about him. I explained that he was a Hurricane Rita evacuee from Houston, and would be staying with me until his mother could get out of Houston. The principal graciously offered to enroll him in classes as an emergency placement, but I told her that he was upset enough about leaving behind his mother and we needed to see how she fared in the hurricane.

"We spoke to Julie on Tuesday, and I was told that Houston was a complete mess due to the evacuation plan gridlock but that she would be with us in a few days. We continued to feed the birds what we had and checked on them constantly.

"The buildings that we evacuated the birds from sustained damage from the high winds and rain and were considered a total loss as far as keeping the birds in them again."

With our facility now destroyed, we chose to relocate and rebuild in a (hopefully) safer area. It is a slow process, and expensive. As always, we rely on your charity to help us rebuild and continue our mission.