Never leave a friend behind

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

As Floridians evacuated from their homes last weekend and Caribbean residents assessed catastrophic damage, yet another issue surfaced in the media.

Many Florida evacuees left their animals behind, and not only that, they left those animals (dogs, in particular) tethered while weathering the hurricane and rising floodwaters.

“Animal control officers found 49 abandoned dogs in the western Palm Beach County cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. Some of the dogs were tethered, while others were left in pens and fenced-in yards,” The Sun Sentinel reported last Saturday.

In a high-stress situation such as mandatory evacuation, bringing a dog along in the car doesn’t seem like a good idea. There is also no guarantee of finding a pet-friendly shelter once a family reaches safety. Some may think leaving the dog at home is the only feasible option.

While this kind of reasoning is not necessarily meant to be malicious on the part of pet owners, there is no doubt this constitutes animal cruelty. It is never OK to leave a dog tethered or caged when rising floodwaters are imminent. The animal has no way to escape floodwaters, and if the water level is high enough, it could then be left to helplessly drown.

Even if floodwaters don’t reach the height of the dog, contact with contaminated water could be detrimental to the dog’s health, and in some cases, fatal. Evacuees are anxious and scared, and for a dog left alone, this fear is amplified, especially considering the animal may not understand what’s happening.

In the event that Beaufort County sees widespread flooding, and even if flooding is contained in low-lying areas, residents should be vigilant and think long and hard about a pet’s safety. Developing a plan of action before disaster strikes is the best way to go. There is no excuse to leave one’s best friend behind in danger.

It’s wrong, it’s cruel, and it could result in a felony charge.