FL: Pet Shelter

As a pet owner I am pleased to see this story. I stayed in my house through Katrina, because I was not leaving my dogs behind.

When Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004, Christine Gyarmathy didn’t evacuate because she refused to leave her home without her pet cat, Mac Daddy. “Ivan was a nightmare for me and (Mac Daddy),” who died in the months after the storm, said Gyarmathy, 61, of Beulah. “I would have evacuated, but I knew at the time there were not many hotels that would take pets.”

To give pet-lovers like Gyarmathy a last-resort evacuation option, Escambia County is negotiating with the Escambia School Board to secure Molino Park Elementary School as a pet-friendly evacuation shelter. It is an option Gyarmathy, who now resides with Mama Cat and a kitten named Stormy, would consider in the event of another storm.

Pet-lovers often hesitate to leave their animals in the face of a hurricane. The county recently posted a six-question Web survey — available until July 31 — to gauge feedback from dog and cat owners on their needs for a shelter.

The Pensacola Dog Owners Association estimates there are 60,000 pets in Escambia County, about half of them in Pensacola, said Lois Silberstein, vice president of the association. The group has been pushing for a pet-friendly shelter and gave a petition to commissioners in April supporting it.

“A pet-friendly shelter has been one of the priorities of our organization since Ivan, but it came to the forefront with Hurricane Katrina,” Silberstein said. “It can mean a life-or-death situation for those who don’t want to separate from their pets.”

It is always nice to see that the people in government have a heart.


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