Animal activists, shelters and local authorities are urging pet owners to keep their animals safe from the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, which is slamming the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds, storm surges and flooding.
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The ASPCA activated a disaster response team in anticipation of animal rescue and shelter needs throughout the Southeast during Hurricane Matthew, and urged pet owners to take measures to keep their animals safe.
"The ASPCA stands ready to assist animals in Matthew’s path, but the first and best line of defense for pets will always be a well-prepared owner,” Dr. Dick Green, Senior Director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team, said in a statement.
The non-profit animal rights organization recommended that pets wear ID tags with up-to-date contact information, and that owners prepare "portable emergency kits" with items such as medical records, water bowls, extra food and medications.
"If you are being evacuated, never leave animals behind," PETA said. "There is no way of knowing what may happen to your home while you are away, and you may not be able to return for days or even weeks. Animal companions left behind may become malnourished or dehydrated or be crushed by collapsing walls. They may drown or escape in panic and become lost."
The Jacksonville Sheriff's office also asked residents to take steps in watching out for their pets.
"Bring animals inside. They will not be OK left outside," the office tweeted late Thursday night.
The Miami Herald reported that pet-friendly shelters are attracting those who are unable to protect their pets from the storm due to tenuous living conditions.
The Herald said that Broward County's pet-friendly shelter at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac had picked up 18 cats, 27 dogs and two birds by yesterday afternoon.
"We have never had this response before," Sharron Carmichael, a shelter manager who works for the Humane Society, told the newspaper. "We know that if it is not safe at your home for you, it is also not safe for your pet."
The storm is expected to run parallel to the coast of Florida as it tracks closer to land over the next two days. Officials have warned of the potential for historic storm surges in parts of the state, and severe flooding.