Pet owners who abandoned their animals during Hurricane Irma will be prosecuted

Ross McGuinness

The owners of pets who were abandoned during Hurricane Irma could face criminal charges.

Animal control officers in Florida, which was hit by the storm, say that pet owners who let their animals fend for themselves will be prosecuted.

The New York Post reported that 40 dogs were rescued by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control officers following the hurricane.

Many of the animals were tied to poles or left in pens outside.

The organisation’s director, Dianne Suave, told the newspaper: ‘There is absolutely no excuse for doing that.’

Dave Aronberg, the state prosecutor for Palm Beach County, told the New York Post: ‘This is a prime example of animal cruelty.’

He warned: ‘We will find you, and we will prosecute you.’

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The officials want those willing to shelter abandoned animals to come forward and offer up their homes.

Ms Suave told USA Today: ‘It’s always disappointing. Our goal is to keep pets and people together.’

By law, if a pet owner hands in their animal to a shelter before the storm, they are not allowed to get them back when it is over.

Andrew Perini walks his neighbour’s dog, Arnie, the day after Hurricane Irma came through South Florida (Picture: Rex)

‘I feel torn about that at times,’ said Ms Suave. ‘But we’re not a boarding facility.’

The ASPCA said it had rescued up to 600 animals in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

‘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,’ said ASPCA vice president Tim Rickey.

‘The ASPCA stands ready to assist animals in Hurricane Irma’s path, but the first and best line of defence for a pet will always be a well-prepared owner.’