POSTED: 8:42 am EDT September 19, 2004
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Animal shelters inundated by people who dropped off their pets as hurricanes approached but never came back for them have been forced to euthanize hundreds of unclaimed dogs and cats.
Many shelters were already near capacity before Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan took aim at Florida and pet owners began leaving their animals in droves.
Dianne Sauve, Palm Beach County's animal control director, said the shelter warned people the animals were going to be put to sleep, but people still left their pets.
"The people were crying, our staff was crying," she said.
Shelter capacity decreased further when the storms destroyed or shut down power at facilities on both coasts.
The storms' passing hasn't staunched the flow of pets. In two days last week, 20 pets were left at the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County, said director Joan Carlson.
"They can't live in their homes and they have no place for their animals," said Joan Carlson, director of the Vero Beach shelter, of the owners.
Some people never come back for their animals. Only about half of the 600 dogs left at Englewood's Suncoast Humane Society were picked up, and fewer than 10 of the 240 cats dropped off have been claimed, said Debra Parsons-Drake, the shelter's executive director.
Animal workers have flown some of the dogs and cats to shelters in Atlanta, Houston, Denver and New York.
In addition, shelters have been helping each other, thanks largely to an informal network formed after 40,000 pets were lost or abandoned during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Animal workers fear the number of pets lost or abandoned or euthanized after this hurricane season will surpass that figure, but they said it will be months until they know the final toll.
This is just too sad. Damn those hurricanes