SPECIAL REPORT: Post-Storm Pets

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Hurricane Michael was a davastating storm and the damages further inland were worse than expected. 

In Jackson County, staff at Partners for Pets animal shelter didn’t think the storm would be as bad as it was. They prepared for the Hurricane just like any other before. They tarped the kennels outdoors and secured smaller animals inside. 

However, the high winds brought trees on the property crashing down onto the kennels, destroying them. A friend of the staff was actually at the shelter during the storm. “She didn’t want to stay in her trailer and figured this would be safer,” said Partners For Pets Owner, Debbie O’Quinn.

O’Quinn said the woman stayed there because she thought it would be safer than her home, but she was wrong. The woman took photos and videos of the damage and the shelter that day and even helped to rescue dogs from the destoryed kennels. 

“She was running out to get the dogs that got loose during the hurricane,” said O’Quinn. However, the damage from the storm is not the only issue. A surplus of dogs, either lost or surrendered, filled the shelter immediatly following the storm. 

“We must have taken at least 50 or more dogs in since the storm. Most of them, we found their homes. We have a lost and found page on our Facebook page and right away we got them home and we’re still getting them home,” said O’Quinn. 

O’Quinn said it’s unfortunate that the dogs were left by their owners, but she understands it was a tough decision. 

“Some of them had no choice you know? It’s just the destruction. They lost their homes, what do they do? They’re moving into places where they can’t have their dogs but we wish we would have taken them into shelters instead of leaving them behind,” she said. 

The original plan for Partners for Pets following the storm was to rebuild the outdoor kennels into a hurricane proof pool barn, but those plans have changed. 

Now that the state of Florida has given the Dozier property that Partners for Pets is located on, back to the County– they will need to find a new home. 

Partners for Pets staff are working diligently to find a new home and plan to speak at the next County Commission meeting about their future. Their future is uncertain, but they said they are determined to find a new building no matter what. 

Over in Bay County, the Humane society also prepared for the storm. Three staff members and their families prepped the shelter and stayed overnight to take care of the cats and dogs. 

“We constantly stayed on our feet looking for any leaks or anything that was going wrong,” said  Humane Society Shelter Manager, Lauryn Gill. 

Whille the Humane Society didn’t have major damage, they did struggle following the storm when it came to perfoming daily tasks. 

“We were without water, power and it was nearly impossible to clean their kennels because after a point in time, we were running out of jugs of waters to flush the kennels out. Thankfully, Escambia County came in and they transferred out the animals to their facility over there and then they actually sent them out across the U.S. I know some ended up in San Diego and other shelters out there,” said Gill. 

Gill said that she’s happy she stayed at the shelter the night of the storm, and while it was terrifying, she wouldn’t change a thing. 

 “Babies could have possibly not have made it because of the conditions so I’m very glad we have the staff that we do and that we were able to stay and take care of them all. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said. 

Although shelters throughout the Panhandle have shipped some dogs out of state to be adopted, they are still dealing with a surplus of animals. Animal shelter staff are encouraging you to ‘adopt not shop’ and give one of these pets a forever home during this trying time. 

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