When people are in the path of a massive storm, they prepare their homes as best they can and get out of its way. For pets and strays, the situation is more complicated.
As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast, many in the animal community are already helping get these animals out of harm's way. Shelters and rescue groups hundreds of miles away are taking in animals from shelters that are directly in the storm's path. Fosters and adopters are stepping up to take local animals so there's room for more dogs and cats affected by the hurricane. Others are sending donations.
As of early Tuesday, the Greenville Humane Society in South Carolina had already accepted 40 dogs and cats from coastal Carolina shelters and they are expecting another transport of 20 to 30 more by the end of the day, Julia Brunelle, social media and marketing manager for the humane society, tells MNN.
"We don't know, in the coming weeks, how many more we'll be taking in; it depends on the path of storm," she says. "We expect a heavy influx at the end of the weekend and early next week."
All three of the humane society's buildings are at capacity with about 15 overflow animals housed in wire crates. They've lowered adoption rates, hoping to encourage people to take home current residents to free up room for animals that will be displaced by the storm.
"A lot of people are always waiting for the right time to adopt," Brunelle says. "Now is the right time for the animals and when it is the most needed and when you're going to do the most good."
At the Pender County Animal Shelter in Burgaw, North Carolina, they're hoping to empty the shelter to make room for animals in need. As a result, all adoptions are free.
"After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, we took in over 100 animals at this shelter. We only have 100 kennels total, so being empty pre-storm helps us have space for the post-event response because we cannot turn animals away," shelter manager Jewell Horton tells MNN. "If we hit capacity we have to euthanize for space, which we do not want to do!"
The shelter has already had calls for more than 50 dogs and cats that they are trying to help get out of the hurricane's path; they've also taken in three miniature horses already. Shelter workers are picking up a pony and goats that were flooded out during Hurricane Matthew, knowing they won't make it through this storm either.
Making long-term plans
So far, some animals have traveled as far away as Atlanta. The Atlanta Humane Society has already picked up 35 dogs and cats that were in shelters in the path of Hurricane Florence. A week ago, they took in 35 animals that were in the path of Tropical Storm Gordon. If past storm history is any indication, they'll likely take in many more.
Teams from Best Friends Animal Society are also on the ground, working to move animals from shelters in harm's way to less-crowded facilities that are out of the hurricane's expected reach. The group is also looking at the long-term picture, realizing what rescue efforts will be needed long after the storm is passed, says Kenny Lamberti, Best Friends Southeastern regional director.
"We learned a lot post (Hurricane) Irma and Harvey and even as far back as Katrina," Lamberti tells MNN. "A lot of people and a lot of animals get stuck. We're creating temporary shelter situations, hoping we don't need them, but you never know."
These shelters will house dogs and cats for an extended period of time until they hopefully can be reunited with their families.
How you can help
If you want to assist animals displaced by the storm, there are plenty of things you can do. Rescue groups and shelters suggest monetary donations, first and foremost. That way they can buy what they need and don't have to worry about storage, especially if shelters are damaged by the storm. Many shelters and rescue groups also have online wish lists.
There is at least one Facebook group where people can post what they need or or the specific ways they are able to help, with offers of transport, fostering, supplies or anything else that might come up once the storm hits. And this site lets shelters and rescues groups share their needs and offers of help.
If your local shelter is making room for hurricane-displaced animals, you may want to consider adopting or fostering so they can make space in their kennels for more animals in need.
Pender County's Horton points out that all sorts of help is needed, from adoptions to donations.
"We need animals out," she says. "Donations will be hugely needed for post event care, especially for caring for the animals after the storm."