How to help our local animal shelters after Irma

click to enlarge Raven the puppy was in a flooded shelter, and is now with Suncoast Animal League. - Suncoast Animal League
Suncoast Animal League
Raven the puppy was in a flooded shelter, and is now with Suncoast Animal League.

It takes a special kind of monster to steal from an animal shelter, especially right after a natural disaster. 

You can guess the sad place where this is going: Last Thursday, someone broke into the Humane Society of Tampa Bay's storage shed and just plum cleaned them out. "Nearly $2,000 of equipment was stolen, including a generator and all of our power tools," HSTB said in a Facebook post.

Here's where you can start feeling good again: The next day, donations came in to replace more or less everything.

"People were great," says Humane Society of Tampa Bay CEO Sherry Silk. "We will be covered." 

This is just one of the many, many stories of good people from the community standing up to help our local animal shelters -- and, of course, their furry charges -- before, during, and after Hurricane Irma.

You want to feel all warm and fuzzy? Pet Pal's spokesperson Gracie Grieshop tells us that even as residents were evacuating, and stores were running out of essentials, people "stopped by the shelter to share their stash of water, along with many other supplies. True love of our community, we love you St. Pete!"

That's not all! Pre-Irma, Suncoast Animal League put a call out for hurricane fosters, to take in shelter pets who would be more safe -- and less scared -- in a home than in SAL's Palm Harbor facility. Fifty-one cats and dogs went home with families during Irma, tucked away safe and loved through this storm. That's on top of the 50-odd dogs and 25 cats who were already in foster homes.

"There's nothing like being in a home and having a family, even a temporary one," says SAL's executive director Rick Chaboudy -- who then adds that SAL has also been caring for a lot of wildlife people have been finding in precarious states. This includes squirrels, birds, bunnies and a possum who is about to get released back into nature, and until then is "using me as a bed and breakfast. Relaxing, eating, sleeping."

The possum, you will note, has been nicknamed Irma.

So look, we could give you sweet stories about how everyone helped their neighbors -- human and animal -- till the cows come home.

Which, as we understand, they're starting to.

As you can see, local shelters and their animals need our support. They need a lot of help when things are totally normal -- add a hurricane into the mix and that goes double. Here's what you can do.

A big one is to check out Creative Loafing's Furricane Relief GoFundMe. Funds will benefit Suncoast Animal League and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay -- those two organizations will be presented with what we expect will be generous checks at the Best of the Bay Awards party Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at the Mahaffey Theater.

"We have to remember pets and wild animals have been affected by this, too," says Creative Loafing's publisher James Howard. "Something has to be done for them."

Humane Society of Tampa Bay tells us they also need donations of dry dog and cat food, since the shelter's usual supply got soaked thanks to Irma. It'll feed not only HSTB's animals, but also those who rely on the pet food assistance program. Here's their wishlist; goods get brought to 3607 N. Armenia Avenue, Tampa.

The Humane Society of Pinellas suffered a lot of physical damage during Irma -- about $15,000 worth. They're going to require help rebuilding. Contribute here. They've got an Amazon wishlist of needed supplies, as well.

Pinellas County Animal Services needs canned cat and dog food, as well as dry kitten food and kitten replacement milk for the babies. Monetary donations would be appreciated, too. All can be mailed to or dropped off at 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo. Spokesperson Season Groves says fosters and volunteers would also be most welcome. 

SPCA Tampa Bay could use donations of cat litter, pet food, towels, sheets and cleaning supplies, which can be brought to 9099130th Avenue N., Largo. Cash donations to help with Irma recovery can be made online. Anyone with the time and inclination to help clear debris should email [email protected] or fill out this form.

Like the other shelters, the Hillsborough County Pet Resource needs supplies like litter, food, unscented baby wipes, clean towels and Milk Bones brand treats -- these can be brought to 440 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa -- as well as financial support. Perhaps more than anything, they need adopters and fosters, as the shelter is getting full post-Irma. Check out some of the wonderful dogs and cats who'd love to be your new furry family member.

Friends of Strays executive director Dara Eckart tells us the shelter would appreciate donations of dog and cat food, and cat litter, that can be given out to people in the community outside of FOS's regular pet pantry clients. Clean towels and cat litter are also needed for the shelter's own use. Bring or send supplies to 2911 47th Ave N., Saint Petersburg.

Pet Pal's Grieshop says there are no specific hurricane-related needs, but that "donations are encouraged so we can continue to save lives and help our community." You can do that online, over the phone (727) 328-7738, or in person at 405 22nd Street S., St. Petersburg.

Finally, Suncoast Animal League's Chaboudy says he is hoping that lots and lots of people will come out to the shelter's upcoming three-day adoption extravaganza, taking place Sept 22-24, at the PetSmart at 26277 US Hwy 19 N, Clearwater.

It's not just that Chaboudy wants SAL's existing animals to find homes, though he surely does. Rather, while Tampa Bay's shelters were on the whole spared the worst of Irma, many shelters just outside of our immediate area were not so lucky. The shelters are damaged and flooded, with the animals in dire straits.

"Every couple hours we get contacted to help," Chaboudy says.

He wants to take in as many of these other shelters' animals as he possibly can, and needs Suncoast's critters to go into foster and permanent homes in order to do so. 

Given how much the community has stepped up to help our shelters and animals throughout this nasty storm, Chaboudy's got good reason to feel optimistic. You can check out SAL's adoptable pets here; email [email protected] to foster.

About The Author

Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer who writes for American Pets Alive! and the Human Animal Support Services project, in an effort to change the future of animal services and keep pets and people together. Arin is author of the novel "Your Robot Dog Will Die," which won Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay Award...
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