The endangered key deer used extraordinary swimming and other survival skills to weather Irma’s assault on the Florida Keys. Greyhound owners gambled by hunkering down with thousands of the dogs in kennels at or near their racetracks, and apparently made it through. The HSUS affiliate, the South Florida Wildlife Center, in Fort Lauderdale – from which we relocated 450 animals – survived, but it was battered, with trees and other vegetation strewn across the property and fencing and other infrastructure damaged. An operator of a breeding farm for Galápagos and Aldabra tortoises reported to state authorities that everybody, including the animals, survived on an island where the eye of the hurricane made a very close pass. Good Samaritans pulled manatees off the coastal floor on Florida’s west coast, after hurricane winds pulled water off shore and exposed terrain typically covered by ocean waters.
This is just a sampling of the drama wrought by Hurricane Irma, which left so much of Florida reeling in its wake. It pounded the Florida Keys in the far south of the state and it submerged so much of Jacksonville in the far north. There’s so much destruction and disruption in between. While many said it could have been worse, it was awfully bad. And still, there are millions without power, and the people of Florida are reminded of how valuable the modern conveniences of our society really are. For many people, and their animals, there will be continuing hardship, and for a smaller number, a long road to recovery.
We are picking up the pieces at the South Florida Wildlife Center. The center, with limited power and water, officially reopened today in a temporary “mash unit” and has already received more than 70 animals. More than 200 young and injured animals that were in foster care are coming back to the facility for the expert care that our team provides.
We are fully deployed in Collier County, where Naples and so many other cities and towns took such a direct hit from the hurricane.
We conducted a transport of dogs and cats from Tampa in advance of the storm. And we have flights planned with our partners Wings of Rescue and GreaterGood.org to fly animals from Clay County in the north, Alachua County in the central part of the state, and Collier County in the south. We’ll be looking for other opportunities to help throughout the state wherever our services and Emergency Placement Partners are needed.
We are conducting assessments in various parts of the state, and we are planning for hay deliveries for needy horses and cattle. Remember, Florida is one of the top states for both industries, and these animals are often forgotten victims of the storm.
Global animal charities Humane Society International and H/3 Foundation Inc. have launched an animal rescue and relief initiative in the British Virgin Islands, following Irma’s devastating impact there. The initial members of an emergency veterinary team have already arrived on the island of Tortola. Additional HSI veterinarians and technicians, as well as H/3 Foundation volunteers, are scheduled to arrive over the next several days, bringing crucial supplies, including food, carriers, hay for farm animals, and equipment to support the rescue efforts.
The organizations will also evacuate lost and displaced dogs and cats, and work to reunite families separated from their pets. HSI and H/3 Foundation are working to secure airlift and logistics to bring lost and stray animals from the British Virgin Islands to shelters in the United States, while setting up local veterinary clinics to provide emergency care and treatment for animal victims. Because many people in the British Virgin Islands, like caring individuals everywhere, find it extremely difficult to evacuate without their beloved pets, HSI and H/3 Foundation will work to immediately facilitate the travel certifications required for such animals.
As with Texas, we plan on being grounded in Florida for a long time to come. Harvey and Irma were not glancing blows. Both storms made a lasting impact on the terrain and infrastructure of two of the three largest states in the union. That means millions of people and the animals in their lives felt the effects. We’ll be working to mitigate those effects in the days, weeks, and months ahead. We’re grateful so many people of conscience answered the call for support, and we’ll be continuing to ask for your support to enable lifesaving work on the ground and through the air.
P.S. Please donate to our Disaster Relief Fund to support our lifesaving work for these and other disasters.
*Message and data rates may apply. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Terms and conditions can be found at www.hmgf.org/t