As Hurricane Irma bore down on the state of Florida, rescuers at Palm Beach County Animal Care were dealing with a totally separate emergency.
They had fielded dozens of calls from concerned neighbors saying that some owners had evacuated the area, but left their family pets behind in dire circumstances.
Racing The Storm
They had already had 42 dogs surrendered by their owners in one day after people said they could not take them as they evacuated.
Now they were in a race against the hurricane to save more pets that had been left behind. When they arrived in the area, they discovered nearly 50 dogs chained to cars or trees. Some were left in pens or crates inside their homes.
As rescuers set about freeing several dogs that were chained up and already in high water, they spoke with news crews about possible prosecution of the owners.
It’s illegal in Palm Beach County to leave a dog tethered or chained up without an owner present, and during extreme weather conditions such as Hurricane Irma, it’s considered felony animal cruelty.
Florida state prosecutors have stated that they intend to track down the owners and prosecute. “Absolutely unacceptable.
People need to be responsible pet owners in this community,” says State Attorney Dave Aronberg. “And there is no excuse for leaving your pet behind to die. We are going to hold accountable those who we can prove left their dogs behind in the storm.”
The State Attorney’s office and Animal Care And Control are teaming up to investigate by interviewing neighbors, interrogating owners, and tracking microchips.
Owners could face a large fine for a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge and/or jail time if the State’s Attorney’s Office determines what they did was a felony.
Do you think the owners should be held accountable for leaving their pets behind?