Meteorologists warned of 100-mile-per-hour winds and severe flooding, but when Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida last weekend, long-gone owners had left dozens of dogs tied up outside to weather the storm frightened and alone.
Now, Palm Beach County Animal Care and the State Attorney's Office are hunting down the people who abandoned their pets during the dangerous hurricane, leaving them not even indoors but chained to trees and even cars.
"They are left in a yard, in a pen they cannot escape from or tethered to trees or poles," Diane Sauve, head of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, told WPTV. Leaving a dog tied up alone is already illegal in the region, but the added danger of the storm qualifies the act as a felony, officials say.
"This is a prime example of animal cruelty," said Dave Aronberg, the state prosecutor for Palm Beach County. "We will find you, and we will prosecute you." While finding these negligent owners will prove a challenge, authorities are working on gathering as much evidence as possible. Sauve stated that they will use every paper trail imaginable to track them down.
PBC animal control officers saved at least 49 dogs and two cats in the lead-up to Irma's arrival, ABC Action News reported, with many more possibly inaccessible to rescuers. In addition to the abandoned pets, the shelter is also working on finding homes for the surrendered dogs and cats relinquished by their owners.
With their facility full with over 100 animals, Palm Beach County Animal Care is currently waiving adoption fees and making fostering even easier. The group is also sending dozens of dogs and cats up north to other shelters to make room for the influx of pets impacted by Irma.
If you'd like to help, the shelter is currently requesting people donate crates, animal carriers, and collars, which can be purchased and sent through Amazon. Better yet, consider registering as a foster home. You'll gain a new animal friend and free up space in a shelter for another pet to take its place.