As the path of Hurricane Ian’s destruction becomes clearer, videos are popping up of pets and other animals being displaced and unable to fend for themselves.
Big Dog Farm Rescue In Florida, the largest no-kill dog rescue in the United States has begun mobilizing in an effort to help shelters and animal rescues in areas of Florida, such as Lee and Collier counties, that were hit by the storm.
“Right now we are loading our bus with crates for animals that may need to be evacuated from West Coast shelters,” said Laurie Simmons, founder and president of the South Florida rescue organization. “We’ve also made a plea for donations for pet supplies, dry and wet dog and cat food, and crates for people who have to move to shelters.”
Simmons says the organization is filling a 45-foot bus with supplies and the team hopes to be on its way to Florida’s west coast by tomorrow, provided safe driving conditions.
Big Dog Ranch is located in Palm Beach County, on Florida’s east coast, which was spared the worst of the storm.
The loss of service and electricity has made it very difficult to contact shelters in need, Simmons says, but the organization has persisted.
“We are trying to get in touch with all the West Coast shelters that have been affected and know what their needs are. We have already spoken to two people who need pet supplies to distribute to the public,” she explained. “We know that the two worst affected shelters currently have no cell service and no power, so we are trying to get someone there to find out how many animals need to be evacuated. We are just getting our bus and team ready and ready to go. to leave as soon as we have the information.”
Big Dog Ranch plans to return endangered dogs to the Loxahatchee Groves property while distributing supplies to both shelters and families of pets in need.
The Ranch’s 33-acre campus (funded by private contributions and sponsors) is immaculate in its design – cage-free with large areas to run, a “Puppy Land” (a stress-free area for pregnant dogs to deliver their puppies), multiple play areas and even a dog bath.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue has previously conducted rescue missions to rescue pets displaced by Hurricane Ida, Dorian and Maria.
Simmons says her team has spent the past week preparing for the storm and clearing areas on the ranch to bring back animals in need.
“We are always ready to go for the animals, because they are the ones who suffer the most, because they can’t take care of themselves,” she says. “So we just want to be the support needed for the people and their animals affected by the storm. We’ve seen this devastation way too often. And we’re just here to help.”
Unfortunately, pets are often left behind during major storms.
A study 2021 the ASPCA found that 83% of pet owners lived in areas prone to natural disasters and that of those owners, 47% who had to evacuate, left at least one pet behind.
Simmons noted that shelter space in the country is at an all-time low due to a host of factors, and it has even impacted the ranch.
“We’re extremely full here because inflation is driving owner surrenders to an all-time high across the country. People are being forced to give up their pets because of the high cost of housing, fuel, groceries and veterinary care,” Simmons said. . said. “What we’re seeing is owner surrenders are up 50% and unfortunately adoptions are down 40%. So the combination of the two unnecessarily means millions of animals will be euthanized in overcrowded shelters that aren’t normally shelters. especially in the South.”
In an effort to combat the crisis, Big Dog Ranch Rescue is opening a second Alabama location (on a former, now banned, Greyhound racing circuit) that will host animals from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and even Texel.
The facility currently has five buildings and a temporary veterinary clinic under construction that the organization hopes to open by the end of October. When completed, the new Alabama shelter will have 16 buildings.
“We are inundated with pleas from shelters that are so overcrowded that they have to euthanize, [so] I can’t get it done fast enough,” Simmons said. “I’ll put it this way.”
Yet there is still hope, thanks to donors and volunteers who have been willing to spend their time and money. It’s what keeps Simmons and Big Dog Ranch Rescue committed to the mission, despite the difficulty of the situations.
“What I love most about it is that I know these animals will go into loving homes,” Simmons says. “To see these dogs get hurt or into total depression because they have lost their families and to see them heal emotionally and physically with our phenomenal veterinary team and our wonderful staff who love them every day and watch them walk out the door in the poor of a loving family, and know they’ve been given that chance at life to be loved? That’s why we keep going.”
Big Dog Ranch Rescue accepts donations online (and on social media), or, if you are in the Palm Beach County area, you can drop off supplies and donations in person at the ranch.