Pinellas County Animal Services News
Hurricane Michael’s Effect on Pet Owners
Hurricane Michael made landfall at Tyndall Air Force Base and barreled through most of Bay County, FL leaving a path of destructions in its wake. Bay County Animal Services personnel set up pet friendly shelters expecting to be there for only a few days. Those days stretched into weeks as the full extent of the damage was realized. Bay County asked for help and Pinellas County Animal Services responded hitting the road with four Animal Control Officers and two support staff members. Now, more than three weeks into the recovery phase, Pinellas County Animal Services was able to return home and begin to examine the lessons learned from this catastrophic event.
Upon arrival area communications were down and power was out throughout most of Bay County. Assisting Bay County, our team went from one pet friendly shelter to another assessing the needs of the citizens. It was evident that those needs had evolved into a long term recovery plan. The pet friendly shelters were filled with individuals awaiting FEMA and insurance adjusters’ findings. The area is heavily rural and many had lost everything including homes and vehicles. Without transportation much needed veterinary services were out of reach, if any offices were able to open at all. Some veterinarians volunteered, able to go to locations where services were needed and offer free care for animals. With so many pets in need we took to the county to conduct welfare checks, deliver needed supplies and respond to reports of abandoned animals.
After the lessons of Hurricane Irma and now of Hurricane Michael we are seeing a similarity of needs in the community following these types of events. As the severity of the storms increase more individuals are in need of food, potable water and shelter for their animals. Housing times in pet friendly shelters increase due to the lack of money available to those affected, availability of short-term housing for those with pets, needed veterinary care to provide required vaccines and supplies to feed and house their animals.
Many chose to leave the area completely – citing that there was nothing left. Others chose to return to the site of their homes often living in tents while awaiting the completion of construction. Some were able to find arrangements with hotel vouchers or with family and friends. Still quite a few chose to stay in the pet friendly shelter for as long as possible. All of these groups require veterinary care and/or supplies such as food and crates to be able to take advantage of these accommodations. Short term response has been at the fore-front of care for pets and pet owners but as recent events demonstrate, the focus must also include consideration of longer care options.
Bureau Director – Pinellas County Animal Services
12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL 33774
Any practices in Pinellas County that have a confirmed case of canine influenza, please notify Animal Services!
Linda L. Boger
(727) 582-2559 – Fax