Update: By the time our team departed the area in mid-September, 872 families were served during our response effort, including 9,083 animals.

When we learned that Hurricane Idalia would likely make landfall, we identified the best means for us to help care for animals in a potential crisis and support the people who care about them. Fighting the big fights for animals sometimes means exactly this: Being ready to respond to disaster situations and prevent suffering by providing support to local shelters and communities. We mobilized to help as soon as the storm began making headlines, and our relief work in Florida continues even as national attention turns elsewhere.

Before the storm arrived, we coordinated and funded the transport of shelter animals to facilities out of the storm’s path. And our team is still on the ground in Madison County, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, to help communities and their animals recover through the distribution of pet food and supplies.

Help animals in emergency situations!

We helped with the placement and transport of animals awaiting adoption from local shelters in the path of the storm to receiving partners out of the potentially impacted areas. The Humane Society of North Central Florida and the Humane Society of Sarasota County welcomed dogs from Dixie County Animal Shelter the day before Hurricane Idalia hit the state. The Humane Society of Vero Beach and the SPCA of Brevard took in dogs from Madison County Animal Shelter.

After the storm, Citrus County Animal Services took in nearly two dozen dogs and cats from Taylor County Animal Services, which lost power.

The storm felled trees that crushed kennels at the Madison County Shelter. Thankfully, animals had been transported elsewhere ahead of the storm.

In total, 60 dogs and 15 cats were transported and placed in safer lodgings thanks to the dedication and collaboration of local shelters. We are immensely grateful to these shelters for working so swiftly to keep these animals safe, and likely saving their lives.

The strategy of getting ahead of the storm and relocating local shelter animals has many benefits: Moving animals awaiting adoption out of the path of the storm is essential for their safety, while giving them a new chance at finding adoptive homes in other communities. Further, creating room in shelters in the storm’s path increases the capacity of impacted communities to care for any animals displaced by the storm, increasing the likelihood of lost pets being reunited with their families.

Damage done by Hurricane Idalia to the Madison County animal shelter.
Kate MacFall/The HSUS

After the storm, the eighth major hurricane to slam the Gulf Coast in just six years, when Florida emergency management officials requested our help on the ground, our responders deployed and set up a supply distribution center in Madison County to distribute pet food and supplies as well as feed for farm and other animals such as cows, horses, goats and chickens. So far, at this center, our team has helped more than 400 households and nearly 4,000 animals, including dogs, cats, cows, chickens and squirrels.

All kinds of animals, from wildlife to pets to farmed animals, are receiving help from responders on the ground. A family of young squirrels lost their nest during the storm and are being rehabilitated by wildlife professionals.

The storm caused structural damage to the local animal shelter, which may take months to repair, so we are also setting up an emergency animal shelter to enable the county to maintain essential animal services until the local shelter is operational again.

Families and their pets visited our distribution center to collect much-needed supplies.

It is our honor to be able to help in situations like this and provide ongoing support, as communities need. For example, after last month’s devastating wildfires in Maui, we provided supplies to help with the relief efforts, and now we’re supporting the Maui Humane Society by helping them keep up with day-to-day tasks like data entry and sorting through the influx of lost and found postings.

We are prepared to provide support to communities impacted by storms throughout this hurricane season. Your support makes our preparedness, rescue, care and relief work possible.

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.