Summer and early fall mark the anniversaries of recent natural disasters. Whether it be hurricanes, wildfires, or extreme floodings, Americans have been seeing an uptick in destabilizing events accompanied by tragic consequences for domestic pets.
After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Monica Frenden, director of Feline Lifesaving at Austin Pets Alive, recalled:
“Animals were tied to trees [after Harvey hit]. Cats were floating on trash cans down the road. Cats, dogs, horses, chickens, pigs, you name it.”
These sentiments were echoed by animal rescuers in Florida after Hurricane Irma, where they rescued roughly forty abandoned dogs.
Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control director Dianne Sauve told USA Today abandonment is one of the worst things someone could do to their pet. “These are things that are not unexpected during a situation like this,” she said. “It’s always disappointing. Our goal is to keep pets and people together.”
In light of these events, Florida state Senator Joe Gruters is stepping up for animal rights, recently filing a bill that would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to leave a dog unrestrained and unattended during ‘manmade’ disasters.
‘Manmade’, in this sense, refers to cases where residents received warnings and/or notices from local or state authorities. The Miami Herald notes that most hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornado warnings where residents receive mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders would fall under this bill. The Palm Beach Post goes on to explain that while many counties already prohibit animals from being tethered in extreme weather, Gruters’ Senate Bill 1738 would revise statewide standards for animal cruelty.
Anyone caught leaving an animal unattended while they evacuate will be charged with animal cruelty, being subject to one year in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000.
So far, the bill has already gone through the Senate Agriculture Committee without opposition. During the hearing, Gruters told those present:
“We want to give these dogs a fighting chance. “
When it comes to natural disasters, Richard Green, who has worked on more than a hundred rescue missions for the ASPCA, advises pet owners to evacuate as soon as an order is given. “If you get a warning that you need to evacuate, don’t be that person who stays behind,” he said. “I see it every day. Just heed the advice and evacuate.”
“Many of the things you’d do for your family, you’d do for your pets, and they are your family, so take the extra steps and do it.”
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