Some four-legged evacuees are seeking shelter as Hurricane Florence barrels toward the East Coast.
More than 50 cats and 15 dogs were transported on Thursday morning to the Bass Pro Shops in Macon from Hilton Head, South Carolina. From there the Atlanta Humane Society will disperse the animals to shelters around the state, according to Alison Hill, transport coordinator for the Atlanta Humane Society.
“We have been trying to assist any coastal city in their evacuation processes for Hurricane Florence,” Hill said. “What we try to do is help them get all their animals out of the shelters ahead of the storm so that after the storm any displaced animals have spaces at their shelters.”
While the hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, the shelters do not want to take any chances with the potential storm surge and flooding threats, Hill said.
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Tito, Gucci and Princess Leah along with their other furry friends made the three-hour ride with Laura Tipton, the adoption facilitator for the Hilton Head Humane Association, and one of her co-workers. The shelter is clearing out, so when the storm makes landfall, it will be able to take in displaced pets from around North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Right now we have a pretty empty shelter so that if someone in Wilmington or Fayetteville or the upstate of South Carolina needs help we will be available,” Tipton said. “We work very close with our county, and if they get a report of a dog or a cat left inside of a house during an evacuation, we will assist the county in going to the property and getting the animal so it can be safe.”
Shelters throughout the Southeast work together during any major weather event. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the Hilton Head shelter partnered with the Atlanta Humane Society to bring in cats to its shelter, Tipton said.
“We created 15 to 20 spaces for cats, and Atlanta (Humane Society) came right to our front door,” she said. “We started hauling cats inside, and they have all since been adopted.”
Some of the animals will go to the Atlanta, La Grange and other shelters in the Columbus area. The dogs and cats will remain in the shelters that take them instead of returning to Hilton Head.
For Hill and Tipton, this is an opportunity to make an impact in their communities and in the animals’ lives.
“Everyone has the choice to evacuate as a person, but the animals don’t always have that choice,” Hill said. “We have all got the same common goal in mind, which is to help save as many of these animals as we can from these natural disasters.”