We all dread the onslaught of natural disasters. We are forced out of our comfort zones especially if there is a need to evacuate in the case of flash floods and severe flooding. Everyone is focused on saving as many people as possible out of harm’s way and many often forget that there are also other species that needs saving – our animal friends. Devoted pet owners don’t just leave their homes without their pets in tow. However, there are some that completely forget about the animals they leave behind as they make their way to safety.
If you’ve seen the news lately, you’ll not only see people in evacuation centers or homes/properties submerged in flood but of poor and helpless animals left to fend for themselves in the face of the harsh elements. Fortunately, some are saved by animal shelters before it is too late. However, because the recent hurricanes proved to be really powerful ones, even the shelters themselves weren’t safe and animals in their care had to endure for a while as they and their carers battered the storm and the painful recovery that follows.
The news of dogs left tied up, abandoned by owners in Palm Beach County to fend for themselves during Hurricane Irma, disturbed many of you, and us.
The question .. will Palm Beach County hold those pet owners accountable?
It’s not something the animals asked for, to be abandoned by their families, for a storm.
“Absolutely unacceptable. People need to be responsible pet owners in this community,” says State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
“The animals should be a valued part of your family and they should be a part of your plan,” says Animal Care and Control Capt. Dave Walesky.
While it is understandable that pet owners are terrified for their lives that they leave home in a hurry to save themselves from whatever a hurricane like Harvey or Irma may bring, it is absolutely unacceptable for them to leave behind their furry friends. They signed up as pet owners and should likewise be responsible and held accountable for the safety and well-being of the animals in their care. They can’t just leave them behind without knowing what the elements have in store for all of us and for how long before they can come back home.
The flooding arrived Monday morning at the back door of Clay County Animal Care and Control — and within 45 minutes, the entire shelter was knee-deep in water.
As Hurricane Irma moved across Northeast Florida, entire neighborhoods disappeared under the storm’s flood waters. Rain and wind poured onto already saturated land — and rivers and lakes and creeks overflowed, unable to contain the sheer amount of water.
It was all hands on deck, said Christina Sutherin, the Clay County facility’s director.
“It all happened so quickly,” she added. “I have the most amazing staff ever. They left their families. They left their homes, dropped everything to come out. All they cared about was making sure our animals were safe.”
The shelters are also damaged as is the rest of the community, where the authorities estimate the damage left behind by both disasters to be over several billions of dollars. In the aftermath of the storms, it’s the flooding that makes recovery more challenging than it already is. With limited funds, most animal shelters struggle in securing the safety of all the animals in their care. More animals are even added into their custody as they rescued displaced animals abandoned by their owners that were out in the flooded streets.
Even wild animals were caught and rescued during the storm, not only those pets with owners. Animals can sense when danger is coming and many of them flee before disaster strikes but fortunately, most of them bounce back pretty well soon after while a handful is rescued and picked up by most local shelters.