If you’re an animal lover, photos of the many stranded and forgotten animals left behind during Hurricane Irma probably ripped your heart in two. The Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control officers rescued 49 dogs just before the storm hit, all of which were left outside to fend for themselves as the massive hurricane approached. As it turns out, the owners of those pets and others who were abandoned during the hurricane could face felony charges.
Possible Prosecution For Pet Owners
“This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” said Palm Beach County state prosecutor Dave Aronberg. “We will find you, and we will prosecute you.”
Authorities explained that many of the animals who were rescued just before Hurricane Irma were tied to poles or left outside in cages. Aronberg, along with agency director Dianne Suave, have vowed to prosecute the animal owners.
Both intend to file felony prosecutions against anyone who left their pets outside during the storm, as long as they can gather enough evidence to do so. Along with the pets that were rescued, Animal Care and Control also took in around 40 cats and dogs who were given up by their owners as the storm approached. Aronberg and Suave are asking the public to help shelter the animals.
According to Suave, animal surrenders are common during storms, but the numbers were particularly high due to Hurricane Irma. “It’s always disappointing,” she said. “Our goal is to keep pets and people together.”
Surrendering a pet to animal control or an animal shelter in Palm Beach County means that the individual cannot get the animal back when the storm ends. “I feel torn about that sometimes,” Suave said. “But we’re not a boarding facility.”
ASPCA Vice President Tim Rickey said, “It’s critical for pet owners to consider their animals when preparing for any disaster, and we strongly urge them to always bring their animals with them if they have to evacuate their home.”
The ASPCA worked through Hurricane Irma’s path in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to rescue around 600 animals who were abandoned during the storm. The agency set up an emergency shelter in Duncan, South Carolina while they continue to move the animals to safety.