It’s absolutely heartbreaking. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, social media sites have been saturated with news and photos about the dogs, cats, horses and other animals left to fend for themselves when their owners fled.
There have been harrowing tales of heroic rescues from rising flood waters. But there have also been heartwarming tales about all of the animal welfare groups working to reunite these animals with their families, or trying to find new homes for the pets that have been displaced.
As an animal lover and pet owner, I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, it makes me furious. From a purely emotional standpoint, I find myself wondering how anyone could abandon their pet in such horrible circumstances. As a reporter who has covered my share of natural disasters and the aftermath — I know a little bit of pre-planning could save a lot of heartache in the long run.
On the other hand, I find myself trying not to rush to judgment. After all, an argument could be made that no one really knows how they would react when confronted by a storm the magnitude of Harvey or Irma. It is easy to be an armchair quarterback from the warmth and safety of your house.
All of that being said, I didn’t leave Eli during Superstorm Sandy. And I would never leave my cat to fend for himself in a storm. Ever.
My reason for this is simple. As a person, I have the ability to make certain choices; ride out a big storm at home or seek shelter elsewhere, listen to the official weather advisories or ignore them, plan in advance, or take my chances. So to a certain extent, I have some control over what happens to me — even in the worst of circumstances. Eli doesn’t have that luxury. He is entirely dependent on me to take care of him and keep him safe. No matter what. He is my responsibility.
Yes, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I will keep saying it until people not only listen, but act accordingly. As pet owners, we are responsible for what happens to our dogs, cats, horses, snakes, gerbils, ferrets, birds… Our companions are not disposable. They are living, breathing beings with specific physical and emotional needs.
Can they adapt? Of Course. Can they survive without us? Yes. Should we put them in a position where they’re forced to do so? Absolutely, positively not.
That being stated, I’m keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Jose. And from what I’ve seen, if you live anywhere in the northeast, I suggest you do the same.