People Who Left Their Dogs Chained During Irma Face Felony Charges

As Irma bore down on Florida as a category 4 hurricane, with predicted wind speeds of over 135 miles per hour, three inches of rain per hour and a possible storm surge of 10 feet, it was bad enough that some people left their pets behind when they evacuated their homes.

What was so much worse was that many of those abandoned dogs were chained to poles or left inside kennels, with no way of escaping the rising water and falling debris.

Before Irma struck, rescuers rushed to unchain or otherwise free dozens of dogs. In Palm Beach County alone, 38 dogs and two cats were rescued within 48 hours by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control officers. The officers continued rescuing animals until mid-afternoon on Sept. 9, when winds reached 35 miles per hour.

“There is absolutely no excuse for doing that,” Animal Care Director Dianne Sauve told WPTV Sept. 9. “It’s unconscionable.”

What’s especially unconscionable is that there were evacuation centers available that welcomed people as well as their pets. Yet the owners of those chained and penned dogs and cats made the decision to leave their pets to die horrible deaths.

In Polk County, animal control officers and good Samaritans rescued at least four dogs who’d been left behind inside a kennel. The water – infested with fire ants — was up to the dogs’ chests, WFLA reports.

Not only were those poor pets unable to run or swim away, but they were vulnerable to being struck by flying debris. A single grain of sand in 100 mph winds could cause an injury, Sauve told WPTV.

Even in mild weather, it’s a felony offense in Palm Beach County to chain or tether dogs outside unless the owner is present. Many states have laws banning the chaining or tethering of dogs.

“Dogs are naturally social beings who need interaction with humans and/or other animals,” says the Humane Society of the United States. “Intensive confinement or long-term restraint can severely damage their physical and psychological well-being. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained or intensively confined in any way, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive.”

The despicable pet owners who left their dogs and cats to die will pay fines and serve jail time – the maximum sentence is five years in prison. They will not get their pets back and will never be allowed to own pets again.

“This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” Dave Aronberg, the state prosecutor for Palm Beach County, told WPTV. “We will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

Aronberg and Animal Care and Control are currently interrogating pet owners, interviewing neighbors and tracking microchips, according to a Sept. 13 WPTV report.

Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz promised to personally go after these pet owners. “I’m a dog lover and an animal lover,” he told WPTV. “Actually, it’s something that kind of infuriates me.”

It’s also good to know that irresponsible owners who dumped their pets at Florida animal shelters just before the storm will be placed on “Do Not Adopt” lists. They won’t be able to get their pets back and will never be able to adopt and abandon another pet again. “I feel torn about that at times,” Sauve told USA TODAY, “but we’re not a boarding facility.”

As Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control Capt. Dave Walesky told WPTV, “The animals should be a valued part of your family and they should be a part of your plan.” Here, here.


If you believe the people in Florida who chained, penned or otherwise incapacitated their pets as Hurricane Irma approached should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, please sign and share this petition.

Photo credit: Patel Starikov


Debbi -W-
Debbi -W-2 days ago

I could no more leave my pets behind than I could one of our children. If someone could 'forget' or 'didn't think about letting their pets go free" when they left them, they should never have pets, ever!

Thanks to all of the hard working rescuers.

Val M
ValAway M3 days ago

In the future, public announcements should be made, urging people to take all pets with them to the shelters! . And make sure all hotels will accept pets during the disaster! .
BTW, fire ants are horribly painful, like getting hundreds of burns all over!

cristiano torchio

How could a person do something like this. They deserve mutilation or gas chamber

Emma P
Emma Parsons3 days ago

Thanks for rescuing them, i could never leave my pet behind

Tania N
Tania N3 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Janis K
Janis K3 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Danuta W
Danuta W4 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Anne M
Anne M4 days ago

I don´t have even words...:-(

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBride4 days ago

Animal rescuers did a brilliant job, a C2 friend of mine was one of them.

Angelflowers D
Angelflowers D4 days ago

Good lord above.