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As Hurricane Irma approached Florida as a Category Four, many people panicked and gathered enough supplies to last them well after the massive weather event had past. However, some decided, for whatever reason, to leave their pets behind as they fled to safety.
Nearly 50 dogs have been rescued by state authorities before Irma even hit. All of the animals were found outdoors and were trying to find safety or tied to poles. So the state's office of animal control is warning animal owners that they could face felony charges.
Palm Beach County state prosecutor Dave Aronberg has told the New York Post: "This is a prime example of animal cruelty.
"We will find you, and we will prosecute you."
The Florida Health Department issued a message on Twitter before the storm hit, pleading with citizens to stick with their pets.
Do not leave your dogs tied up or chained when evacuating. Floodwaters are dangerous for people & pets. #Irma #FLprepares
- Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) September 10, 2017
Authorities are currently gathering enough evidence on the owners to file charges. But they're also calling on people who took animals in during the hurricane to come forward about where they found the pets and what condition they were in.
Animal Care and Control noted that there were 40 cats and dogs handed in before Irma made landfall. Making this decision is a tough one, but under Florida law, it's one that can't be reversed once the storm is over.
Agency Director Dianne Suave also told the New York Post: "'It's always disappointing. Our goal is to keep pets and people together.
She added to USA Today: "I feel torn about that at times, but we're not a boarding facility."
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets in Boynton Beach. Credit: PA
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says they're still finding animals alone wherever the storm hit. They're relocating 100 animals from Miami to a specially devised shelter in South Carolina.
In a statement, the ASPCA said: "Moving that many animals is no easy task - each animal is examined by a veterinarian, behavior checks are performed, and since the animals are being transported out of state, health certificates are completed.
"Our relocation teams will identify shelters across the country that are in the position to help find these animals homes, and our teams will start moving them to their new destinations just as quickly as we possibly can."
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