Humans are not the only ones seeking shelter from the strong winds, heavy rains and deadly floods of Hurricane Irma.
Animals, too, are finding ways to stay safe — and often, they need human help.
The National Wildlife Federation says that some animals know how to take advantage of a hurricane’s aftermath: Raccoons scavenge for food in the tumult, and some bears use fallen trees for shelter.
But for most, the risks are severe. Fish can be electrocuted by fallen power lines. Migratory birds can be thrown off course. And animals that live in zoos, shelters and wildlife refuges are dependent on people who must decide which is less risky: waiting out the storm, or attempting a stressful, difficult relocation.
Dolphinarium staff members in northern Cuba take care of dolphins before their transfer to the province of Cienfuegos ahead of Hurricane Irma on Friday.CreditOsvaldo Gutierrez Gomez/European Pressphoto Agency
CreditOsvaldo Gutierrez Gomez/Agencia Cubana de Noticias, via Associated Press
For six dolphins in Cuba, that decision was made this week. They were removed from a dolphinarium on Cayo Guillermo, an island in Cuba’s Jardines del Rey archipelago in the north, and placed onboard a helicopter for transport, the Cuban news outlet CiberCuba reported on Friday.
With damp fabric to cover their bodies and head massages to keep them calm, the dolphins were moved to a pool in the province of Cienfuegos, about a hundred miles away.
Dogs were brought to a pet-friendly emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center to protect them from the approaching storm.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In Florida, residents faced some tough decisions about what to do with their pets.
The Miami-Dade government website lists a few shelters in the area that are open to both pets and people. The shelters were housing tens of thousands of people and hundreds of pets on Friday morning, The Miami Herald reported. But given space limitations, owners and pets couldn’t always shelter together.
A boy put chickens inside his house in the neighborhood of Aviation, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on Thursday.CreditHector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In Haiti, some residents did their best to make sure their animals were not swept away by the wind and rain that buffeted the island on Thursday.
By Saturday, the island had sustained some structural damage from Irma, but it was spared devastation of the scale it saw just last year with Hurricane Matthew.
Gretchen and Ron Levine of A Paw Above in Hollywood, Fla., have been inundated with pet care requests from people fleeing the storm.CreditSusan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Associated Press
As areas evacuated, some pet owners found help nearby. Gretchen Levine, the owner of A Paw Above, a pet care provider in Hollywood, Fla., said on Saturday that she was hosting 24 dogs, 21 cats and one chinchilla rabbit in her own home after many of her clients asked for her help on their way out of town.
“The animals all get along really well,” she said, adding that forecasts for her area were improving, and she would most likely be spared the worst of the storm.
A 13-day-old pet pig got its daily ration of milk on Friday before being moved to a safer house in Caibarién, Cuba.CreditAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Organizations accepting donations for the welfare of animals in Irma’s path include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Best Friends Animal Society and the South Florida Wildlife Center.