Amidst a Brutal Hurricane Season, Abandoned Pets Turn Feral in Empty Cities

First Harvey, then Irma, Jose, and now Maria. Care2 writers have written about the pets left locked up or chained while their so-called families fled their Florida homes. Animal Care and Control officers worked to free the animals before they would face a watery grave, and their registered owners, besides possibly facing charges, will not be able to have them back.

Care2 has also told you about how pressure forced the Holiday Inn to change its no-pet policy, albeit belatedly, for emergency situations such as natural disasters. These two things alone should mean companion animals are better taken care of when the next disaster strikes the continental United States.

But amidst all that has been going on as storms make landfall on coastal US states, this unbelievable hurricane season has also been ravaging the Atlantic, with entire islands in their path emptying of people. And with the difficulty of evacuating entire islands of people, pets here have again been left behind. On the Caribbean island of Barbuda, dogs and cats are quickly growing feral as they struggle to find food and water in a disaster zone their families have fled, Time magazine reports.

With more storms on the way and the possibility of days or weeks before their families might return, animal rescue workers are doing their best to provide relief to the frightened animal population. Many, probably most pets, are unhappy to be left in a warm home alone for a few hours while their families go to work or school. The image, then, of an entire island devoid of more than a handful of people, with dogs wandering the streets or huddling together, cold, lonely, and afraid, is both chilling and heart-breaking.

Climate change experts have long noted that increased fall out from these unnatural disasters disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, including older people, low-income families, children and others. Recent events show that to this list we should add our pets.

My wife and I travelled to Central America a few years ago, bringing our two smallish-medium dogs with us. Nearly every aspect of the trip involving travelling with the four-legged members of our family was difficult, frustrating, and stressful for both us and our dogs, including booking, check-in, and the trip itself. Most airlines treat dogs as luggage, and do not allow them in the cabin beyond a certain size, even in carriers. As frightening as the experience of being in cargo might be, it’s also dangerous to provide your dogs with drugs to make them relax or sleep when you cannot monitor or access them. This is a real problem that most airlines should have found a solution to by now (dog-friendly flights or seating areas, for example), but most don’t.

It’s part of a larger problem where dogs are left out of consideration in a society that’s built for people. Examples ranging from a lack of off-leash parks in urban areas to difficulty with travel to officials and organizations overlooking the needs of accounting for family pets during disasters are all symptoms of a lack of consideration for animals that–for most of us–are considered members of our family.

As climate-related disasters that affect and displace entire communities become more and more common, emergency response plans and the people and organizations that implement them will have to get better at accounting for our entire families, not only the human-shaped members.

My heartfelt thanks and support goes out to the animal protectors in Florida and Barbuda whom have both rescued and are continuing to care for lost, abandoned, and frightened animals. If I ever somehow became separated from my dogs under such terrible conditions, I would desperately hope that someone like these folks would be there to save and protect them until I was able to get back to them.

82 comments

heather g
heather g24 days ago

The shock of your family disappearing causes dogs to become feral within a few days' time and they mostly become scared of people.

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Angela K
Angela K1 months ago

petition signed & shared

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R1 months ago

I can't imagine leaving my family member behind...

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Pinke A
Pinke A1 months ago

I can understand,that people are partly in panic,when leaving home....but when you take a pet,the pet are part of your family! Could you your child?your elderly parent?? no of course not! So why your pet,who's trusting you with his life?

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Colin Clauscen
Colin C1 months ago

If you own a pet you have to be prepared to care for it

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Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe1 months ago

Animal rescue workers are HEROS in my book. My bother-in-law and his wife fled Florida with their dog and stayed in hotels for 3 days. My heart goes out to all the animals who got left behind, including farm animals and wildlife. I pray God is watching out for them, since their families sure didn't.

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Filomena C
Filomena C1 months ago

Petition signed

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Filomena C
Filomena C1 months ago

Thanks

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Filomena C
Filomena C1 months ago

So sad!
Pets are family!

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Filomena C
Filomena C1 months ago

Pets are family.
So sad people left behind their pets, with no care ...

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