And how IFAW founder Brian Davies’ $1.4 million winter home didn’t
FORT MYERS, Florida––Forty-eight hours after Hurricane Ian first hit the southwest Florida coast on September 28, 2022, and minutes after it slammed into South Carolina two days later, after crossing the width of Florida and regaining momentum over the sea, animal rescuers were mobilized from Sanibel Island, which took the first big hit from the Ian landfall, to San Diego, California.
(See also Latest animal care updates from Hurricane Ian disaster area.)
The San Diego Humane Society emergency response team early on September 30, 2022 sent two members to Charlotte, North Carolina, “to pick up RVs and drive to a staging location in Lee County, Florida,” while two others flew “directly to Sarasota, Florida, where field responders are waiting to access areas affected by Hurricane Ian,” the San Diego Humane Society announced via Facebook.
The San Diego Humane Society emergency response team anticipated a ten-day deployment.
Davies’ home was on Sanibel Island
As of the morning of September 30, 2022, the most prominent casualty of Hurricane Ian in the animal protection world was the $1.4 million winter home of International Fund for Animal Welfare and Network for Animals founders Brian and Gloria Davies on Sanibel Island.
Brian and Gloria Davies themselves were at their summer home on Cape Cod.
Like the rest of Sanibel Island, elevation three feet above sea level, hit by a 12-foot storm surge, the Davies home appeared from aerial images to be probably a total loss.
The bridges and causeway connecting Sanibel Island and adjacent Captiva and Pine Islands to the mainland were impassibly fractured in at least five places, with twelve confirmed human deaths on the island and an unknown number of people missing.
Shoreline communities almost obliterated
No one imagined that the hit to the Davies’ home would be anywhere close to the worst of the damage to animal care organizations and facilities.
Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and many other nearby communities were almost obliterated. The Hurricane Ian human body count rose to 45 on September 30, 2022, with rosters of the missing still just being assembled and searches of devastated buildings just beginning as rescuers struggled to gain access to flooded areas through thick tangles of fallen trees.
Surveyed 330 animal organizations
Altogether, ANIMALS 24-7 electronically surveyed more than 330 Florida peninsular nonprofit and community-funded animal care entities, the most prominent of more than about 12,000 that hold federally recognized nonprofit status, in the second 24 hours after Ian made landfall.
Information was accessible from sixty organizations.
What we found is summarized below by region.
Because of disruptions in communication, the information may not be up-to-date or complete. ANIMALS 24-7 will add updates and corrections as more information becomes available, and will include information from organizations in the Carolinas in a follow-up as soon as possible.
Where Hurricane Ian made landfall
With electricity off and many cellular communication towers destroyed, most animal care facilities in the vicinities hardest hit by Hurricane Ian were barely able to share word with the outside world about how they were faring, if at all.
Among the first to report, however, was CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc., formerly headquartered on Sanibel Island.
Evacuating to a variety of mainland locations on September 26, 2022, “All CROW staff members, students, patients, and ambassadors are safe!” CROW posted to Facebook. “We are doing our best to get to [the former CROW site on Sanibel Island] to assess damages, but recognize the rescue and recovery of those who remain on the island should be prioritized.
“We are committed to getting back to our mission as soon as possible,” CROW said. “We are currently working to develop alternate plans for wildlife care. Shout out to our incredible staff and students who heroically cared for our wildlife patients and ambassadors during this catastrophic storm!”
The South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale mentioned that “Six patients were transferred to us from CROW by one of their amazing volunteers.”
Cape Coral & Fort Myers
The Cape Coral Animal Shelter & Veterinary Clinic, of Cape Coral, helped residents to evacuate in the days before Hurricane Ian hit by distributing wire crates, cat carriers, and pet food free of charge while supplies on hand lasted, but appeared to be among the many animal care organizations knocked out of communication after Ian made landfall.
The Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, of West Palm Beach, closed for two days due to Hurricane Ian, like the majority of animal shelters in Florida, posted on September 30, 2022 that an emergency relief team it sent to the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers found that, “Ian took a devastating toll on this shelter. Their animals need to be evacuated as soon as possible. We plan to bring approximately 45 animals back to Peggy Adams today for medical care and eventual adoption.”
Gulf Coast Humane Society
The Gulf Coast Humane Society itself apologized for a “delay in posting an update, but the internet server is down at the shelter. We finally found a staff member who has available service to use her hotspot on her phone.
“All staff members who stayed at the shelter through the entirety of Hurricane Ian and all our 170 shelter animals are safe and healthy,” the Gulf Coast Humane Society said.
“The Gulf Coast Humane Society facility took some hits, though,” the society acknowledged, “and this will be a longer process to recover than we had hoped for. The biggest damage was to the administration building, with a part of the roof being blown off. The cat lanai, the breezeway between the adoption lobby and cove, as well as the rehab play area were completely destroyed.
“The intake play area fencing was destroyed by a fallen tree, while the cove play area also is unusable due to a fallen tree.”
This all happened after the Gulf Coast Humane Society “took in four puppies, a senior poodle mix, and a blue heeler from shelter partner Labelle Animal Services” ahead of the Hurricane Ian landfall.
Humane Society Naples
Forty-one cats and kittens from the Gulf Coast Humane Society were transferred to the Humane Society Naples.
“Humane Society Naples locations experienced no structural damage,” posted chief executive officer Sarah Baeckler. “Animals were relocated to the main shelter on Airport Pulling Road and the Oaks Kennels located east of Interstate 75, where staff remained to provide onsite care since September 27, 2022.
“Humane Society Naples will remain closed for adoptions through October 4, 2022,” Baeckler said, “allowing staff to prioritize community services, such as animal transports, pet medical services and supply distribution.
Humane Society Naples, Baeckler continued, “is working with multiple partners from across the country, such as PAWS Chicago and Brandywine Village SPCA,” with locations in Delaware and Pennsylvania, “to transport animals to safe locations. Humane Society Naples is also prepared to distribute much-needed pet supplies to community members in need, thanks to a partnership with Big Dogs Rescue.”
Transferred cats from the eye of the storm to the eye of the storm
A somewhat awkward situation resulted, however, when Humane Society Naples “partnered with Collier County Domestic Animal Services on September 27, 2022,” Baeckler said, “to send nearly 75 cats and kittens to the Charleston Animal Society,” in South Carolina, which turned out to be close to the path of the Hurricane Ian landfall in the Carolinas just a few days later.
Then, Baekler said, “In preparation for Hurricane Ian’s arrival in South Carolina, the cats were transferred to 10 different shelters across the state.”
The Charleston Animal Society Response Team meanwhile “was on the ground at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society loading dogs evacuated from Citrus County, Florida,” who were transported out ahead of the storm by the Bissell Pet Foundation and Code 3 Associates. Our team received a request to help take these dogs on the next leg of their trip from Birmingham to the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church, Virginia.”
Fortunately, “After a pretty intense day of hurricane force wind and rain from Hurricane Ian,” the Charleston Animal Society reported, our shelter animal, s including our outside feral cats, are all resting comfortably. We are monitoring our neighbor shelters throughout the state of South Carolina and are ready to assist them. We sustained tree damage and some flooding, but all in all we are truly blessed there wasn’t more damage.”
Inverness, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda
Citrus County Animal Services, headquartered in Inverness, reported that “staff are busy manning the pet friendly evacuation shelters to keep our citizens and their pets safe,” after “arriving at the shelter bright and early to care for our dogs, including lots of yard time and play groups, before the storm hit.”
The Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, in Port Charlotte, begged community members for fostering help in the days before Hurricane Ian hit, but has not been heard from since.
“We were hit hard by hurricane Ian,” reported the Little Bear Sanctuary in Punta Gorda.
“It was a Category 4 with sustained winds of 135 miles per hour when it hit the sanctuary.”
Little Bear Sanctuary founders Christopher Vane and Randy Sellers “stayed with the animals throughout the storm. The majority of the animals are safe with the exception of one of our pigs and one of our sheep.
“The sanctuary sustained a lot of damage to all animal shelters, structures, and fencing, and a large portion of our land is underwater,” the Little Bear Sanctuary posted.
Alley Cat Allies and TMZ reported that all 59 cats known to have been living on the grounds of the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West survived, but the Hemingway House itself, TMZ said, “is a mess with debris.
Elaborated Marine Mammal Conservancy cofounder Rick Trout, “Key Largo was well over 100 miles away after passed Cuba. We lucked out, but barrier island habitats for animals and people are forever altered or destroyed in Collier and Lee counties.
“Is Hurricane Ian of 2022 the last multi-billion dollar storm our fossil fuel addiction causes or do we have to waste more ‘recovery’ money and see more dead bodies before we cap the petrochemical exhaust pipe we’ve shoved up Mother Nature’s nose?” Trout fumed.
Reported Florida Keys SPCA executive director Tammy Fox, “Thanks to everyone who contributed to building our Animal Welfare & Education Center in Key West, we were able to keep our animals, the animals from our Marathon campus, and our staff who needed safe shelter safe and dry. Several team members stayed at the facility to take care of the animals.
“Our dogs enjoyed special playgroups in the halls, extra toys, and movie night, while the cats and small animals got extra cuddles and treats to distract them from the storm outside.”
The Florida Keys SPCA suffered little damage and reopened just one day after Hurricane Ian passed.
Chuck Will’s widow
The Marathon Wild Bird Center reported receiving the first avian patient from Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022, a chuck-will’s-widow, and has posted no updates since.
Pawsitive Beginnings fox rescue, on Key Largo, said simply, “We are okay here.”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Animal Farm animals “braved Hurricane Ian with the help of some good-natured humans,” the sheriff’s office reported, with a pig temporarily housed in the lobby.
Tampa Bay region
“Our building kept the animals, staff, and volunteers safe during the storm,” the Humane Society of Tampa Bay posted. “The animals barely heard a noise and thankfully we never lost power.”
The shelter was temporarily closed, but fully staffed throughout the storm.
“We had amazing and dedicated staff and volunteers staying at the shelter during the storm, to care for and comfort the animals,” the Humane Society of Tampa Bay added. “They also brought their fur babies and families to the shelter for safety and togetherness.”
Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue spokesperson Jamie Veronica, daughter of founder Carole Baskin, reported that all cats were “accounted for and their enclosures are still good. All of them stayed in their dens with the exception of Kimba,” a male tiger recently rescued from a circus in Guatemala.
“No major branches fell on the cages,” Jamie Veronica added. “A small pine snapped and fell near Dutchess,” a female tiger. “A couple of 15 to 18-foot maples are down at staff offices. There is a large oak leaning. If it falls it will miss block our main travel route, so we are preparing to chop it down.
Big Cat Rescue experienced “a lot of flooding,” Jamie Veronica acknowledged, and wind causing “white caps in our tiger lake.”
Flamingos keep heads above water at Sunken Gardens
At Sunken Gardens, a St. Petersburg “roadside zoo” founded in 1903, “Twenty-one Chilean flamingos sheltered in the ladies’ bathroom off the main lobby,” wrote Tampa Bay Times staff reporter Gabrielle Calise. “With the exception of the koi fish that swim in ponds throughout the gardens, all of the animals holed up in the main building. The enclosures of other birds — including macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatoos and a kookaburra from Australia — were moved to a classroom. A little over a dozen red-footed tortoises burrowed into a straw-lined trough in the men’s room.”
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium in St. Petersburg reported that it “weathered Hurricane Ian with minor damage. Our staff and our animals are all doing well! Our efforts will now shift to helping animals in the wild who were affected by the hurricane. Our rescue team will deploy to support our stranding network and community of partners.”
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay likewise reported that, “All animals and employees are safe and unharmed,” thanking “our dedicated teams who stayed onsite during the hurricane to tend to the needs of our animals.”
Posted the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, of Indian Shores, “After a very long day we successfully evacuated all of our patients and permanent resident birds from the sanctuary,” but then Hurricane Ian passed to the south.
The Humane Society of Pinellas, in Clearwater, “is closed until October 1, 2022, possibly longer due to storm damage,” it announced. “Our staff and pets sheltered at home during the storm. Do not leave pets at our gate entrance or leashed to our fence! If you find a stray or loose pet, contact Pinellas County Animal Services. We cannot accept stray or found pets.”
The Humane Society of the Nature Coast in Brooksville closed for two days “due to high winds,” but reported a temporary shortage of cat litter.
The Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch in Myakka City, just north of some of the hardest-hit areas, posted that “All of our shelter animals made it through Hurricane Ian safe and secure, doing great, and we are so glad its over. The shelter itself made it through with very little damage. We are, however, still without power or running water.
“I went to the shelter today,” posted Amber Douglass, adoption specialist at the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood. “it looks pretty banged up. But nothing hard work can’t fix.”
The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, in Palm Harbor, invited supporters to “Come hang out with us and help us clean all the fallen branches. Kids are welcome! Please bring a rake and drinks for your family. No admission for anyone willing to help us. We will be closed for general admission until we get everything cleaned up.”
Cat Depot in Sarasota suffered minor damage, but none of the 120 cats on hand were injured, according to Ashley Soriano of FOX News.
The Big Cat Habitat Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota reported that “all of the animals are okay! We have no major damages, but did lose some old fencing and several trees, and sustained other damage to the property. We hope to reopen soon.”
The Humane Society of Sarasota County in Sarasota announced that, “Our adoption center will be closed until October 4, 2022,” but would continue to open mornings “to fosters who need supplies and those in need of our Pet Food Pantry.” The shelter appealed for donations of pet food and for “walk-in volunteers” on September 30, 2022, “to help with storm debris clean up, walking dogs, and cleaning cat kennels. Some of our staff have been impacted by the hurricane,” the Humane Society of Sarasota County acknowledged.
The Suncoast Animal League, of Palm Harbor, noted that “It’s that time after a windy storm passes through when dozens of wildlife need help. And with baby squirrel season upon us, we typically see an influx, when the mildest of wind gusts can blow entire nests out of trees.
“The cooler temperatures from a storm can also encourage momma squirrels to build nests inside of car engines, as one person discovered this morning.
“After receiving dozens of emails over the past 24 hours, a few of our wildlife team members met up at the shelter to receive babies from the public. From there, our volunteers then put into action baby squirrel handoffs at homes and parking lots, so the work could be spread out across the wildlife team.”
Center for Great Apes
The Center for Great Apes, in Wauchula, “received a direct hit from Hurricane Ian,” it posted on September 29, 2022.. “All of the apes and staff are safe, but the grounds will need significant clean up.
“A few big oak trees, pines, and bamboo have come down, along with some perimeter fences, but most of the damage is from flooding, limbs down, and debris.
“The sanctuary does not have power, water, or phone service as of right now,” the Center for Great Apes said, “but we have generators running to give us water to clean.
“While our apes are safe they are still stuck inside their night houses until the debris is cleared from their outdoor habitats,” the Center for Great Apes continued.
“There are 69 great apes hunkering down along with 10 of our staff dogs taking shelter in safe spaces.
“Twenty staff members were here all day today and throughout the night, staying in the very strong nighthouses with their apes.”
At that, the Center for Great Apes added, “We only have a skeleton crew, since some of our staff can’t get to us because of closed roads and flooding. However, the staff here have worked hard to clear paths and ape habitats.”
Elsewhere in Central Florida
The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Sanford by contrast reported that, “Our ride-out team and all of our animals made it through the storm okay! Our bird collection is hanging around inside of the Wayne M. Dench Discovery center today with our storm ride-out team. Our team will be making further assessments on how soon we can reopen.”
SPCA Florida, of Lakeland, “deployed volunteers with the Florida State Animal Response Coalition to assist other areas before the storm hit.”
Some of the volunteers reportedly helped the World Equestrian Center in Ocala to accommodate as many as 2,000 horses and other large animals.
Pasco County Animal Services, headquartered in Land O’Lakes, posted that staff had “camped on air mattresses throughout the adoption center” for 48 hours through the height of Hurricane Ian, but were “lucky enough to escape unscathed.”
The Humane Society of Marion County in Ocala mentioned that “All pets and staff are safe, and we have plans to re-open!”
A spokesperson for Gatorland, of Orlando, “founded by Owen Godwin on former cattle land in 1949, privately owned by his family,” reminded Robyn White of Newsweek that, “Alligators have been around for 75 million years. It ain’t their first rodeo with nasty storms. They actually feel that barometric pressure changing, get in the water, go down, and sit underwater. They’ve learned to ride out big storms by just sitting on the bottom of the pond. They come up with their nostrils and take a little breath every now and then. So don’t worry about it. All our animals are going to be safe.”
Orange County Animal Services in Orlando reported having “staff spread throughout Orange County,” including “10 staff members deployed at various evacuation shelters to assist people with their pets.”
Nine Orange County Animal Services staff members remained at the agency shelter “for the duration of the storm,” looking after 157 dogs and 110 cats, with an additional two staff members at Orange County Emergency Operations Center, “overseeing this response and helping to dispatch emergency enforcement calls to officers on standby.”
The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando reported that, “Our animals are all safe and sound and our facilities were unharmed.”
Also in Central Florida
Lost & Found Pets of Polk County, Florida reported that it was “Inundated with reports about baby squirrels knocked out of trees,” a problem also mentioned by many other organizations and individuals after Hurricane Ian passed.
The Humane Society of Highlands County in Sebring said it “rode out the storm at the shelter, in the dark,” due to loss of electricity.
“All of our wonderful volunteers fostered our animals during the storm!” said the Humane Society of Pasco County, of Shady Hills.
The Lake County Animal Shelter in Tavares “sheltered over 100 pets,” it said, “but not all were dogs and cats!” Posted photos showed rabbits.
101 Paws and Claws in Deltona reported that, “Things have finally slowed to a drizzle here and we will have a video update from a few hours earlier going live once Facebook sees fit to publish it — we don’t have internet or power — showing some of what we’re dealing with.
“Everyone is alive and well, first and most importantly. But we’re flooded. A lot. Water is already starting to drain, but debris is everywhere and items are ruined, and it all needs to be cleaned out. We have a tree down on the perimeter fence.”
Alachua County Animal Resources & Care closed for the duration of Hurricane Ian, but maintained animal care facilities at two locations serving evacuees.
The Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Gainesville reported having “a large tree fall on top of three habitats in Munchkinland,” but the monkeys were safely locked inside, “and another tree fell on a habitat and runway in [the sanctuary area called] Kansas,” Jungle Friends said, “but all of the monkeys in that area were moved to Geriatric Jungle.
“We have no power or internet,” Jungle Friends added. “We will continue to update everyone as we clean up after the storm.”
The Humane Society of North Central Florida in Gainesville sent “a huge thank you to our community for rallying together to help us empty our shelter” and closed for three days.
Animal Care & Protective Services in Jacksonville pledged to “remain open for pet owners to reclaim their lost pets, adoptions, and fostering as long as safety and weather conditions allow,” and to have animal code enforcement officers in the field responding to animal related emergencies while weather conditions allow.”
The Jacksonville Humane Society experienced a power outage, but closed only briefly.
First Coast No More Homeless Pets in Jacksonville announced that it would be “Closed to feral cats through October 20, 2022.”
Big Dog Ranch Rescue, of Loxahatchee Groves, posted that it “will be heading to areas ravaged by hurricane Ian to provide pet supplies to families and shelters struggling with the aftermath of the storm. Additionally, endangered dogs will be brought back to safety at Big Dog Ranch Rescue.”
This help was acknowledged by Humane Society Naples. (See above.)
The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter closed to the public for two days, but remained open to receive injured animals until 1:30 p.m. each day.
Volusia County Animal Services in Daytona closed for two days, as did the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast in Palm City, whose Facebook page added that, “Our staff will still be here, now and throughout the storm, to care for the animals.”
Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control in Palm Beach mentioned that, “We rely heavily on our volunteers during normal operations, but when the shelter is mandated to close and volunteers are not permitted to come in, our staff pull together to take care of all of the shelter pets, including 11 of our officers and two lieutenants” during Hurricane Ian, who “helped with walking the dogs, cleaning kennels, feeding all 307 shelter pets, and provided a frozen treat to each of the dogs in their kennels before they had to leave for the day.”
The Humane Society of St. Lucie County posted that “All of our dogs and cats are safe from the effects of Hurricane Ian. Our dogs even seem to love the new lake we have outside of our dog kennel wing. If allowed we’re planning to go to Naples/Fort Myers on Saturday bring some supplies, water, canned food, pet food also.”
The Animal Recovery Mission sanctuary near Port St. Lucie posted that, “We had so much rain before this storm that our property is already struggling with extreme flooding, power issues, and structure damage.”
The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton reminded the public that, “Over the millions of years that sea turtles have been around, they have adapted their nesting strategy to accommodate for natural events such as hurricanes. Each nesting female turtle deposits several nests throughout the duration of the nesting season, essentially ‘hedging her bets’ to make sure that even if a storm hits at some point during the season, there is a high probability that at least a few of her nests will incubate successfully.
“If you find sea turtle eggs on the beach or washing out of a nest,” Gumbo Limbo asked, “please do not touch, move, or collect them. Contact Gumbo Limbo immediately.”
The Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale closed for one day on September 28, 2022, the day Hurricane Ian hit.
Jane Hands says
We knew this was going to happen three days before it actually did happen-I am in the UK!!! How come places did not act sooner? Surely it is better safe than sorry?
Merritt Clifton says
Florida is hit by multiple tropical storms and hurricanes of lesser intensity each and every year. In response to the approach of Hurricane Ian, most Floridians, including animal care agencies, took the normal precautions, but Hurricane Ian proved to be many times larger and more intense than those Floridians are used to, with a 500-mile storm front, more than 10 times wider than the typical hurricane of Category 4 wind speed.
Zack Porter says
Thanks for this extensive coverage about Florida, Merritt and Beth. There are also independent rescuers, such as Doug Thron who has gone to help stranded cats and dogs in Cape Coral. He uses modified drones to help locate animals in the debris after hurricanes and wildfires. Indie rescuers and wildlife rehabbers don’t have the huge budgets of organizations such as IFAW and often fund rescues out of their own pocket and sometimes from donations on platforms such as Go Fund Me. But it’s remarkable what these determined, hardworking individuals can accomplish.
Jamaka Petzak says
Thanking you both, and everyone involved, for these updates and the Herculean efforts enacted to save and protect the most vulnerable.
*Hoping the Ocala cobra made it to safety, too.*
Annoula Wylderich says
Thank you for this coverage and update, Beth and Merritt. I lived in Cape Coral and conducted business in Ft. Myers in the early 2000’s and experienced Hurricane Charlie while there. The photos and news coverage of the devastation from Ian is almost too much to bear. Hopefully, along with the emergency responders for humans, there will be sufficient help provided for the wildlife and other animals in need.
Marilyn Weaver says
Thank you for this report. I was in the dark about how the animal agencies were doing during and after the storm. This coverage was reassuring. Fossil fuel’s eradication should be on everyone’s mind after experiencing this storm. This won’t be the last storm of this kind for another hundred years. We can now expect them in the not too distant future. Will we heed this wake up call?
Susan Frances says
I am thankful for this update on some of the facilities. I have been so very worried how the animals have fared this most devastating natural disaster ;(
Susan Frances says
I pray the Animal Welfare League in Port Charlotte can report soon on the animals and staff there. I know there are many other places that have animals that aren’t listed here. I fear for them. :”(
Merritt Clifton says
Please see our follow-up, Latest animal care updates from Hurricane Ian disaster area.