Animal Evacuations During Hurricane Florence
Harboring Fugitives: Woman Arrested for Treating Abandoned Animals Without License
by Will Cournoyer
As Hurricane Florence approached the East Coast, people across North Carolina, parts of South Carolina, and parts of Virginia were forced to evacuate their homes for safety. In the rush to get out, many families made the decision to leave behind their pets. The hurricane would eventually cause extreme flooding in many areas, putting all of the abandoned animals in danger. Multiple organizations worked to rescue the helpless pets from the flooded areas, with groups such as the Coast Guard and the National Guard. With so many animals left behind and in need of assistance, civilians decided that they wanted to help.
Independent rescuers volunteered to go into evacuation zones whenever they got a call informing them of a pet in need of help. But once the volunteers had rescued the animals, they needed a place to bring them. Tammie Hedges is the founder of a nonprofit known as Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws that is dedicated to helping animals in need. Tammie and her nonprofit offered a safe place for the animals to stay and be cared for during the storm. Tammie had a total of 27 animals, including 20 cats and 7 dogs. In addition to providing shelter, she was giving them food, water, and any necessary medical treatment. Unfortunately, Tammie was arrested for her efforts and the animals were taken away from her shelter. She was charged with 12 counts of practicing veterinary medicine without a license, and one count of soliciting a schedule IV drug (a substance with a relatively low potential for abuse). All charges were eventually dismissed. According to Tammie, three of those charges were for applying a triple antibiotic to a neck wound on a cat.
Tammie’s story was quickly picked up by multiple national news outlets. She garnered nationwide attention and support for herself as well as Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws.
Tammie said on abandoned animals: “For our county, there has never been a place that I know of that accepted them,” Tammie said when asked about why people abandon their pets,
“Generally speaking, some have too many to evacuate with them, can’t find a place to accept them, or just don’t care, unfortunately. I have learned over my years of living here in North Carolina that many of the residents think animals are disposable, and they are not.”
Many evacuation shelters across North Carolina, as well as many hotels, do not allow people to bring in animals, so for anyone who cannot stay with family or friends, they have limited options for their pets. Many animal shelters that were taking pets in during the storm quickly reached maximum capacity. As a result, shelters were forced to either deny people who needed to leave their pets behind, or had to make room by putting down animals that were already in the shelters.
Tammie provided her input about how she thinks people could be motivated to stop leaving their pets behind during evacuations.
“Education is all we can do unless laws are changed.”
Currently, there are no abandonment laws in North Carolina, other than a law that prohibits people from leaving a pet at the vet for over 10 days without paying. The state does currently have a “Good Samaritan” law, which allows people to help other people during an emergency without being charged, but the law does not apply to animals. “Animals need to be added into that,” Tammie said, “especially in a state of emergency.” Currently, the only thing protecting house pets is the morals of their owners, and in a society that views animals as less valuable than people, that puts our furry friends in a dangerous position.
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