The Devastation After: Irma’s Worst

Many pets were left behind when people evacuated.

Cecilyn Lehman, Staff Writer

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When a Category 5 hurricane barreled down on Cuba, the Florida Keys and the rest of Florida, most families were forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter elsewhere. While the evacuation process ensued, residents of Florida packed their things and joined the endless lanes of traffic. While faced with panic, many families unfortunately chose to leave behind their pets. Many tying their dogs to poles, or enclosing them in their crates. The choices to leave behind pets were deemed irresponsible of strangers and rescuers who risked their lives to save the abandoned pets.

Videos and photos surfaced of rescuers riding horses and steering boats to houses of abandoned animals. Many dogs found safety on tables or high platforms. Horses were forced to endure the winds and flooding while trapped within pens. People who stayed in their homes during the storm soon ventured out after the winds and rain had passed to find and save the deserted animals. To the credit of the rescuers, hundreds of animals were saved. Florida officials warned residents that the abandonment of animals can lead to felony animal cruelty charges.  Florida residents risked their lives to save some of these animals. While some of the public chose to leave animals behind, zoos and aquariums found ways to make ends meet by moving outdoor animals into public restrooms and staff buildings. Flamingos from a Fort Lauderdale zoo were temporarily housed in a men’s restroom, while penguins and otters hung out in the directors office.
The responsibility of some and the irresponsibility of others is reflected in the action and choices made while faced with fear. It is essential pet owners consider their pets as family and take the necessary steps to prepare for an incoming storm. .