Whenever a disaster strikes, my first thought is always: What's happening to the animals? With Hurricane Irma barreling toward Florida, and touted as the most catastrophic storm to ever target the U.S., creative ways animals are being protected during Hurricane Irma will restore your faith in humanity. The New York Times reported that risks to animals in the path of a hurricane can be severe. "Fish can be electrocuted by fallen power lines. Migratory birds can be thrown off course. And animals who live in zoos, shelters, and wildlife refuges are dependent on people who must decide which is less risky: waiting out the storm, or attempting a stressful, difficult relocation."
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, more than 600,000 animals were killed in the storm's wake, according to The Atlantic. Ahead of Hurricane Irma, efforts are being made to keep animals safe. From family pets to zoo animals, from wildlife to marine animals, humans are coming up with some ingenious ways to protect animals of all types. Pets — including birds, turtles, lizards, and smaller animals — are being allowed into many shelters, rescues are transporting pets to partners in other states, and some people are even taking in strangers' pets in an effort to help keep animals safe.
Animals Need A Port In The Storm
In Cuba, six Dolphins were moved to safety from Delfinario Recreational / Cable Ski Resort via helicopter ahead of Irma, and were accompanied by trainers, and a doctor, to ensure they stayed safe, according to Cuban news outlet CiberCuba.
In the Florida Keys, which is predicted to take the brunt of Irma's wrath, howler monkeys, dingoes, and turtles were moved to safety, and are being housed in hurricane-proof shelters, or have been moved out of the area, NBC News reported.
The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society in West Palm Beach began making preparations Wednesday to keep animals out of harm's way. "We are prepared for the worst and hopeful for the best," Communications Director Naki Carter said told NBC News. "We are preparing for a category 5 to make direct impact with our zoo."
The Miami Zoo secured animals in enclosures that are strong enough to withstand the hurricane. In a statement on Facebook Sept. 6, the zoo said the animals will not be evacuated.
"The stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal. These animals survived Andrew without injuries. We've loaded up on additional food and water, our generators have been tested and ready to go. In addition, we've stored all cycles and removed debris."
NBC News reported that founder and president of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, Dr. Paul Reillo, said he and other staff members would stay with the animals during the storm. "We’re with them every step of the way. You can't crate them and walk away — our prime directive is to save lives here."
He went on to say that conservation groups would work in tandem to help each other after the storm. "It's our life's work. It’s not about the people — this is bigger than us," Reillo told NBC News. "It's about believing that wildlife deserves a chance for the future. We should do all we can to prevent extinction."
Roosters in Key West were wrapped in paper burritos, to avoid a kerfuffle, and driven to safety.
For people without small pet carriers, one Twitter user posted a brilliant DIY hack for carrying a small animal.
Farms animals are also being taken to shelters ahead of Irma.
One Boca Raton resident is riding it out the storm with her pig, bird, and some beer.
Other pups staying home with their humans got outfitted with life vests.
Many beloved pets hunkered down with their owners at pet-friendly hurricane shelters. ABC News 10 reported that owners arriving with their four-legged friends should bring personal pet supplies, including pet food, and a pet crate.
Some lucky homeless pets got an airplane ride to an adoption event in hopes of finding forever homes ahead of Irma.
Other pups, dressed in rain gear, kept their prized possessions nearby while waiting for Irma's arrival.
The Palm Beach Post reported that some people fleeing Hurricane Irma left their pets tied to trees, which is illegal. Dianne Sauve, head of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, told the Post that the department will be pursuing criminal charges against owners who abandoned their dogs and left them tied up in places where they would not be able to escape the storm. 26 dogs were rescued from Bell Glade, Fla. Sept. 8 after being abandoned by their owners ahead of Irma.
Additionally, 23 dogs were rescued from a mobile home park where they were left to fend for themselves during Irma. County officials will file court documents seeking legal custody of the dogs, Sauve told the Post.
However, one woman is providing a port in the storm. The Times reported that Gretchen Levine, the owner of A Paw Above, a pet care provider in Hollywood, Fla., is caring for 24 dogs, 21 cats, and one chinchilla rabbit for clients who were out of options and in need of care for their pets during Irma.
In Charleston, S.C., pets were being moved from the Charleston Animal Society to a facility in Aiken S.C. to make room for animals Charleston expects to bring in before, and after, Irma, according to the Aiken Standard.
For pets left behind, help is on the way. The Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo. reported that a Longmont-based animal search and rescue team that has just returned from animal rescue efforts in Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas is already heading out to help animals displaced by Irma. Two members in Longmont left Sept. 9 to pre-stage in Atlanta, Ga., where they will meet up with up to about 30 other volunteers coming from their homes across the U.S.