Advertisement
  1. Weather

From dogs to tigers, how animals in Tampa Bay will weather Irma

The Florida Aquarium received a shipment of 30,0000 gallons of seawater from the Gulf of Mexico in preparation for Irma.
Published Sep. 9, 2017

As Hurricane Irma approaches Tampa Bay, animal shelters in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, as well as the Big Cat Rescue and the Florida Aquarium, are busy preparing for the storm.

Hurricane preparedness varies at each place, from playing instrumental music at the dog kennel to stocking up on fresh seawater — thousands of gallons of it. Here's how local facilities are bracing for the storm:

Pinellas County Animal Services

At 12450 Ulmerton Road in Largo, staff members have cleaned up the outside and stocked up on food for both animals and humans. Generators will keep emergency lights on if the power goes off.

"We will have five staff members staying in the shelter during the storm," said director Doug Brightwell. "If anything arises with the animals, they are on site to take care of things."

Dogs can grow agitated to the brewing storm outside, so staff have treats and toys on hand to distract them. They're also playing instrumental music.

"It doesn't work 100 percent," he said. "But it's helpful."

Big Cat Rescue

How do you keep more than 70 big cats safe from hurricane winds?

"We've had a very solid plan for years," said the sanctuary's spokeswoman, Susan Bass.

That includes placing hurricane shutters at the gift shop, which turns into a command center for staff during the storm. Generators will keep freezers filled with meat on. The cats will also remain in steel enclosures. If winds pick up above 30 mph, they are moved into the roofed sections of their cages.

Tigers love water, Bass said, so they may enjoy some of the downpours. As for the other cats? Not so much.

"The rest of the cats will be hunkered down in their dens trying to stay dry," she said.

Florida Aquarium

The aquarium at 701 Channelside Drive in Tampa will be closed to the public today through Monday. But inside the facility, employees are getting ready for Irma. Generators will keep the 100 aquarium exhibits running if the power goes.

Earlier this week, the aquarium received a shipment of 300,000 gallons of fresh seawater from the Gulf of Mexico.

"That was extremely critical for us," said aquarium spokeswoman Kaitlyn Fusco.

Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Early on Sunday morning, staff will be moving more than 100 dogs, cats and rabbits from the Humane Society's older shelter to its more secure hospital down the street on Armenia Avenue in Tampa.

Between 10 to 20 animals will also be flown to the Midwest to make space for empty cages.

"Tuesday is going to be horrible with all the strays that are going to be in need," said CEO Sherry Silk, adding that many volunteers have taken animals home with them.

Roughly 10 staff members and a veterinarian will be with the animals during the storm.

Lowry Park Zoo

"Things are busy around here as we prepare for Hurricane Irma!" wrote chief marketing officer Kristy Chase Tozer in an email Friday.

Most of the animals have "night houses" where they reside, so the zoo plans to keep them in their enclosures throughout the storm.

"The few animals that don't generally have indoor habitats (mostly birds) will be moved into safe, inside enclosures," Tozer said.

Suncoast Animal League

The league is clearing its shelter in Palm Harbor of cats and dogs that will be going out to foster homes.

"Our shelter is very close to water and if the area floods, we are in serious trouble," said a post on its Facebook page. "If you live in a non-evacuation zone, please consider taking just one cat into your home for a few days."

Humane Society of Pinellas

All 208 animals were placed in emergency foster homes, wrote director of development Sharon Boyes in an email.

"Since we have an outdoor facility that is nearly 70 years old," she wrote, "it was imperative we evacuated every pet."

The shelter may reopen on Tuesday.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com. Follow @lauracmorel.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The projected path of Nestor National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  2. A semi-trailer truck fell onto an SUV on Interstate 4 on Friday night after a reported tornado touched down and crossed the highway near Lakeland. No one was injured. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A tornado caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when another tornado crosses the interstate.
  3. The projected path for Tropical Storm Nestor, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Tampa Bay should expect wind and rain tonight into Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service
  4. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue was scheduled to headline on Friday, Oct. 18 at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Coachman Park. Mathieu Bitton
    Festival and city officials will monitor the weather accordingly as a tropical disturbance threatens heavy wind and rain.
  5. The projected path for Potential Tropical Cyclone 16, according to the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    Thunderstorms have been spotted off the west coast of Florida as Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 moves over the central Gulf of Mexico.
  6. Donny Jasinski, a Baltimore native and a freshman at the University of Tampa, relaxes by the pool while browsing through his I-Phone on the campus Aquatics Center on Thursday, September 27, 2018. "One of the reasons why I came here for school was the weather," said Jasinski. JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It’s fall, but it sure doesn’t feel like fall. When will the bay area get some real pumpkin spice weather?
  7. A broad area of low pressure headed toward the Gulf of Mexico will bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the Tampa Bay area this weekend. National Hurricane Center
    The National Hurricane Center has issued a storm surge watch for Florida’s Gulf Coast from Indian Pass to Clearwater.
  8. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. Florida State University professor Wenyuan Fan said the storm probably created "stormquakes" offshore in the gulf, too. [Photo courtesy of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration]] NOAA
    Analysis of a decade of records shows hurricanes causing seismic activity on continental shelf
  9. Tropical depression 15 has formed in the eastern Atlantic. National Weather Service
    The newly formed system joins a tropical wave off the coast of South America.
  10. Peggy Wood, center, attends a community announcement with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, in Mexico Beach in September. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Wood family presses forward with plans to rebuild the Driftwood Inn amid a changing town.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement