PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Those who abandoned pets as Hurricane Irma barreled down on the Florida Peninsula could face criminal charges for doing so.

Abandoned Pets Rescued

Animal Care and Control officers in Palm Beach County have found and rescued up to 40 dogs in the days before the storm made landfall. Many of them were left tied to poles or in outside pens, officials told the New York Post.

“There is absolutely no excuse for doing that,” agency Director Dianne Sauve said to the newspaper.

Owners Face Potential Criminal Charges

Both Sauve and Palm Beach County’s state prosecutor, Dave Aronberg say that they intend to file felony prosecutions against those who may have left these dogs out in the storm.

“This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” Aronberg said. “We will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

On Sunday morning, the Florida Department of Public Health reiterated the dangers posed when pets are abandoned during a storm.

Relinquished Pets

Animal Care and Control also took in another 40 cats and dogs who were relinquished by their owners. While it’s more common during storms, the number of surrenders was higher in the lead up to Irma. But at least these people had the decency to do so.

“These are things that are not unexpected during a situation like this,” Sauve said to USA Today, adding there are two pet-friendly shelters in Palm Beach County. “It’s always disappointing. Our goal is to keep pets and people together.”

Willingly giving up your pet in Palm Beach County means you give up ownership and therefore cannot get the pet back after the storm passes.

“I feel torn about that at times,” she said, “but we’re not a boarding facility.”

Advice for Pet Owners

Sauve offered more advice for pet owners:

  • Don’t let your dog out right after the storm passes; it’s going to be confused by the damage and debris. Animal caretakers see a spike in animal injuries after storms because animals get cut and caught on debris.
  • If you come upon an abandoned pet, use caution. The combination of confused dogs and stressed people result in an uptick of dog bites after storms.

Abandoned Pets in Texas

Abandoned pets was a problem encountered by Texans during Hurricane Harvey as well.

Police in Montgomery County, Texas asked dog owners to unchain their pets due to the hurricane that pummeled them last month. A local police chief threatened legal action against those who failed to do so.

“I promise you, that I will hold anyone accountable that unlawfully restrains they’re [sic] dog in extreme weather conditions,” warned Chief Stephen Carlisle of the Roman Forest Police Department.

dog owners

Carlisle told a story regarding a dog tied to a tree while checking high water levels in the county last year.

“The dog barked and barked as the water kept rising until the water got high enough and the barks stopped,” reads the post.

Furthermore, the post also warned it was illegal to leave a dog on a rope continuously.

“It is against the law to keep a dog on a chain during extreme weather conditions or between 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.,” said the post.

That law prohibits a dog owner from leaving their animal outside and unattended “by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog’s movement” under several additional conditions, including close proximity to a school, during a heat advisory, or if a tornado warning has been issued.

(Photo courtesy Biology9)