In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Alachua County Animal Services has taken in 115 dogs and cats from Gainesville and surrounding areas.
The animal intake was exceptionally high because of animals surrendered in anticipation of the storm, said Ed Williams, animal services director at Alachua County Animal Services. Many people brought their pets to Animal Services before evacuating to a shelter and picked them up when it was safe to return home.
Alachua County Animal Services accepted 115 animals during Hurricane Irma, bringing their total number of animals to 359, he added.
“Had the storm been worse, it probably would have been a greater number,” Williams said.
Alachua County Animal Services partnered with Humane Society of the United States to redistribute animals to shelters in the North and Midwest, he said. A Charleston shelter even sent a pickup truck toting an air-conditioned trailer to drive some dogs from Gainesville to South Carolina.
According to Williams, partnering with the Alachua County Commission to increase the number of pet-friendly shelters would help reduce the influx of animals brought in during a hurricane in the future.
After Alachua County Animal Services returned the “storm refugees” to their owners and sent animals to other shelters around the country, they took in 40 adoptable dogs from Marion County Animal Center.
“They’re cute, cuddly, and they can say they survived Hurricane Irma,” Williams said.
Marion County Animal Center transferred animals to Alachua County Animal Services and Alachua County Humane Society to help alleviate space issues, said Elaine McClain, Marion County spokesperson.
“Animal Services here in Marion County was very full due to the extended stray-hold time that we implemented during the storm and fewer adoptions as our county’s human population worked through the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” McClain said.
After natural disasters such as hurricanes, adopting a dog is not at the forefront of many people’s minds, she said. Transferring the animals allowed Marion County to save more animals during the storm.
“We are so grateful to Alachua County Humane Society and Alachua County Animal Services for helping us out with their time and resources and letting us use their space to ensure that these dogs find forever homes,” McClain said.