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The owners of dozens of pets abandoned during Irma could be facing felony animal cruelty charges, according to the state’s prosecutor.
In the days leading up to Hurricane Irma’s south Florida landfall, Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control officers rescued at least 50 dogs, all that were found abandoned outside, most tied or chained to fences or poles, and others left inside crates, unable to escape to find shelter from 120mph winds, piercing rain, and rising floodwaters.
“This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” Palm Beach County state prosecutor Dave Aronberg told the New York Post.
Aronberg also indicated that he intends to prosecute any pet owner found to have abandoned their pets in such a horrific manner ahead of a potentially deadly storm.
“We will find you, and we will prosecute you,” he said, promising to seek felony charges against anyone who left dogs outside and abandoned ahead of the storm, provided that enough information can be found to press charges.
In addition to those left abandoned, Animal Care and Control also took in roughly 40 cats and dogs who were surrendered by their owners ahead of the storm. Those that surrendered their animals have given up ownership and will not be reunited following the storm.
In the aftermath of Irma, the ASPCA rescued an additional 600 dogs and cats that were left and shelters or abandoned and continue working to rescue others as they are found.
“It’s critical for pet owners to consider their animals when preparing for any disaster, and we strongly urge them to always bring their animals with them if they have to evacuate their home,” ASPCA Vice President Tim Rickey said in a statement.
“The ASPCA stands ready to assist animals in Hurricane Irma’s path, but the first and best line of defense for a pet will always be a well-prepared owner.”