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


Renata B
Renata B6 months ago

Good! I did sign the petition.

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

These people should never have pets....

Kay B
Kay Babout a year ago

Petition quickly signed! They should get harsh punishment for putting animal lives in danger. They were looking out for their own a____ and should have been responsible for their animals as well. I have no sympathy for them.

Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


Ellie M
Ellie Mabout a year ago


Roberta Roberts
Roberta Robertsabout a year ago

Them evil scum bags should be chained up when the next hurricane comes.see hoe they like it I hope they do go to jail for years

Elisabeth H
Elisabeth Habout a year ago

strange behaviour

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBrideabout a year ago

To abandon an animal in the first place is bad enough, but to leave them chained, or shut in, with no way to help themselves during natural disasters is beyond belief.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H1 years ago

Agree with other comments. Dogs do not belong on chains in the first place. But a big Thank You to those who worked to try to save as many who were left behind as they could.