“Finding some light amongst the darkness”
FORT MYERS, Florida––Four days after Hurricane Ian roared across Florida from southwest to northeast, and two days after Ian turned at sea to hook into South Carolina, reports of human and animal casualties are still trickling in from animal care agencies.
Among them, perhaps the most optimistic to reach ANIMALS 24-7 came from CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc., whose facilities on Sanibel Island are presumed obliterated, along with almost everything else on the island.
Just three feet above sea level, Sanibel Island was reportedly swept from end to end by a 12-foot storm surge that killed more than a dozen human residents.
“Finding some light amongst the darkness of the storm,” CROW on October 1, 2022 thanked “our partners and friends at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for taking in some of our patients.
“Today,” CROW added, “they were able to successfully release magnificent frigate bird #22-4453! We are thrilled to see her safe return to the wild.
“For the first time in electronic bird tracking history, several magnificent frigate birds were witnessed 60 miles inland, above the Dinner Island Ranch Wildlife Management area after Hurricane Ian,” CROW continued.
There is no road access to Sanibel Island, since Hurricane Ian destroyed the causeway and bridges that formerly served the island, and wrecked most of the boat landings too, but CROW also somehow learned that, “Our beloved eagle pair have returned and already started the process of rebuilding in their original nest tree!”
The Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, in Port Charlotte, also near where Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, resurfaced on October 1, 2022 after a multi-day social media silence to proclaim itself “in desperate need of water for the animals, dog food, and cat/kitten food at the shelter.
“We need fosters for bottle baby kittens!” the Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County added.
“We were very blessed with minor damage and losing power for just a few hours during Hurricane Ian,” the Caloosa Humane Society & Veterinary Clinic in West Palm Beach reported, “and all of our precious animals are safe. So now it’s our turn to help other shelters. Along with Humane Society Naples,” the Caloosa Humane Society & Veterinary Clinic mentioned, “yesterday we were able to take dogs from Highlands County Animal Control, which is currently taking animals from several counties.”
Rottweilers to the rescue?
“At the beginning of the week,” opened a comprehensive account from Madison County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services in north central Florida, “when it looked like we were about to get a direct hit, we started reaching out for food and supplies to store for the animals we currently had, as well as to make sure we had enough to last us after the storm, just as you would for your home. Thank you to Florida Rottweiler Rescue Ranch for providing that. One of our staff members spent a morning battling the traffic of those who were already leaving the state to pick that up and bring it back.
“Then, as we all watched the storm grow, we started reaching out to rescues both within the state that were safe from the storm and through a national organization, as we knew that the Florida rescues would all feel some type of impact.
“Thanks to many people,” Madison County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services continued, mentioning among others Faithful Friends Pet Rescue & Rehoming of Gainesville, Florida, also within the storm path, “we were able to secure safe places for most of the dogs and all of the cats we had prior to the storm.
“Just as quickly as animals left more have already started filling in their places. This is unfortunately a never ending cycle,” Madison County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services acknowledged. “But for now we are pleased that the storm did not impact us. We have volunteered our staff to assist those agencies that were in the direct path.”
Wildlife & other
Also in north central Florida, the Chase Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservancy, of Webster, reported that “Generators are on site and volunteers have begun clean up. We need to get animals out of their hurricane shelters and back to the habitats that are not flooded or damaged, clear debris from the grounds and open air habitats, replace tarps and metal roofing, and drain out the sloth and anteater habitat as well as the front lemur enclosures.”
Second Chance Rescue, near Orlando, posted that one of the tornados spun off by Hurricane Ian “ripped through our barn, rendering most of it useless and [leaving] tons of our animals unable to go back until fixed.”
The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens “is closed until further notice,” said the zoo Facebook page. “We still do not have power, several areas of the zoo are still flooded, and we are still hard at work on repairs and removing debris.”
But the Naples Zoo did not report any animal losses or injuries.
“Many of our animals and staff rode out the storm in our animal hospital and other newer hurricane-proof buildings, including dens and bathrooms,” the Naples Zoo said.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa also reported no animal losses or injuries.
The toll on farmed animals remains more difficult to assess.
“Hurricane Ian barreled through about 40% of Florida’s beef cattle industry, destroying barns and fences and killing at least a few calves, according to the Florida Cattlemen’s Association,” Bloomberg News reported.
“The key for animals now is for water on pastures to recede so they can resume feeding before hunger becomes critical,” Florida Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Jim Handley said, hoping that “Ranchers from neighboring states will bring in hay and other supplemental feed to help.”
Since the Florida cattle population is approximately 895,000, according to the National Agricultural Statistical Service, about 358,000 cattle may be at risk.
Dakin Dairy Farms
Farm & Field Veterinary Service owner Meleah McMillen, of Brookesville, Florida, reported a much gloomier situation.
“I was contacted by a 4,000 head dairy in Myakka City,” McMillen posted, “that has experienced 200+ dead calves from drowning.
“The survivors are severely affected and suffering from aspiration pneumonia due to water inhalation. They desperately need quality antibiotics if they are going to survive,” McMillen said.
McMillen actually understated the catastrophe.
Courtney Dakin, a cousin of Dakin Dairy Farms owner Jerry Dakin, told YourObserver.com staff writer Ian Swaby that the farm had about 5,000 cows on the property when Hurricane Ian hit, leaving about 3,000 of the cows without water because of power outages.
Flood barriers failed
“Many of the cows are sick with pneumonia due to their prolonged exposure to the weather conditions during the storm,” Swaby wrote. “The farm received severe damage to its facilities,” including cattle barns and a tour barn.
“Despite the use of a bulldozer to create sediment barriers around the property prior to the hurricane,” Swaby added, “Courtney Dakin said the barriers had little effect in preventing the waters, which she said came from the overflowing Myakka and Peace rivers.
“Courtney Dakin said many of the farm’s animals did survive the storm, including all the farm’s sheep, goats, a tour cow named Norman, and three chicks.”
Dakin Dairy Farms appealed via Facebook for a farrier “to treat the cows’ feet, as a lot of debris has ended up in their stalls,” and for “any able bodies to help clean metal out of our barns to keep our girls safe.”
The Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown may have been the hardest hit South Carolina animal care agency, but by October 2, 2022 was again open for adoptions.
“Our electricity and phones are back on, the downed power lines and poles have been removed, and staff worked incredibly hard cleaning up the grounds,” the Saint Frances Animal Center posted a day earlier.
“Unfortunately the tarps we use outdoors to cover play yard areas and kennels did not fare well during the storm,” the Saint Frances Animal Center said. We have no electricity and multiple downed power lines across our property making it dangerous to visit. “The good news is our buildings had minimal flooding and all our animals are okay.”
Earlier the Saint Frances Animal Center urged the public to stay away because, “There is a street light ready to fall on the property.”
Horry County Animal Care Center spells out the law
The Horry County Animal Care Center in Conway also temporarily lost telephone service soon after Hurricane Ian struck.
Staff remained on site to “continue to care for animals already at the shelter for the duration,” the Horry County Animal Care Center said via Facebook.
“Under Horry County Government’s ‘Care and Treatment’ ordinance,” the Horry County Animal Care Center reminded, “all animal owners have a duty to provide proper shelter for their animals, particularly during extreme weather, including a tropical storm.
“The ordinance defines proper shelter as a house-like structure appropriate for the size and number of animals, which will keep non-aquatic animals dry, out of the direct path of wind, and at a reasonable temperature that is healthful for the animal.
“For dogs who will be outside alone for more than 30 minutes, the shelter must be an enclosed waterproof and windproof structure, with a solid and waterproof floor raised from the ground, and a windbreak at the entrance.
“Further, Ordinance 4-3, ‘Tethering,’ states that animals cannot be tethered outside during extreme weather, to include, among other conditions, tornadoes, thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes.”
International Primate Protection League
The International Primate Protection League gibbon sanctuary, in Summerville, reported that “Everyone is safe and we don’t have any major damage. We had one close call — a big tree came down — which reminded us that it could have been much worse.
“We are working on clean-up,” the International Primate Protection League said, “and can’t help but start planning for the next hurricane,” having previously been hit by Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, and Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.
“Keeping wild animals secure and happy is always a major operation,” the International Primate Protection League continued, “but natural disasters push us to the limit.”
Specifically, the International Primate Protection League continued, “We could use help in storm-proofing our otter enclosures. We want to reinforce our fencing and build more secure otter houses. Our current emergency plan for severe storms entails crating the otters and moving them into a secure garage. Ideally, we would like them to have the same hurricane-ready houses as our gibbons. T his will reduce their anxiety during storms and keep them safe.
“If you are wondering,” the International Primate Protection League added, “yes, the gibbons still sing while inside! It can be deafening when the whole crew gets going.”
Dorchester Paws in Summerville reported that, “Some parts of the shelter experienced severe flooding. Other parts had limbs, trees and, branches down, and our lobby sustained water damage.”
A volunteer work bee was expected to allow Dorchester Paws to reopen on October 3, 2022, including to welcome back “All animals who went into foster care during this storm.”
Colleton County Animal Services in Walterboro closed for just one day, and “closed to intake of any dogs or cats” indefinitely, “due to the heavy dog intake this week and the requirement to hold strays for 5 to 10 days.”
The Orangeburg SPCA also closed for one day.
The Grand Strand Humane Society in Myrtle Beach, likewise “at max capacity of dogs” and displaying only photos of pit bulls, thanked “our amazing volunteers and foster parents for taking home some of our beautiful shelter dogs to keep them safe and warm throughout this storm,” and “our first-class employees who were up before the sun to provide care for the remaining animals housed in all three of our locations.”
The Grand Strand Humane Society cat facility in Tanger Outlets, however, was quarantined through October 3, 2020 due to an outbreak of an unspecified disease.
Greenville County Animal Care in Greenville postponed an “Ultimutt Race” fundraising event due to “high winds and rain from Hurricane Ian,” but was able to accept “a transport of cats and kittens evacuated from Collier County Domestic Animal Services and the Humane Society of Naples in Naples, Florida just before the storm hit.”
“The coast is clear!” reported the Pet Helpers Adoption Shelter & Spay/Neuter Clinic Charleston. “Pet Helpers is very happy to say we were lucky enough to have made it through Hurricane Ian with only moderate damage to our facility and grounds, with all of our pets and staff safe and sound.”