hurricane

The owners of the pets who were abandoned as Hurricane Irma approached Florida could face felony charges, according to the state's office of animal control.

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control officers rescued 49 dogs in the days before the storm hit, all of whom were left outside to fend for themselves.

'This is a prime example of animal cruelty,' Palm Beach County state prosecutor Dave Aronberg told the New York Post.

'We will find you, and we will prosecute you.'

Many of the animals rescued prior to Irma's arrival were tied to poles or left outside in pens, authorities explained.

'There is absolutely no excuse for doing that,' agency director Dianne Suave told the Post.

She and Aronberg have vowed to come down hard on the animal owners.

Both have said they intend to file felony prosecutions against anyone who left their dogs outside during the storm, provided that they can gather enough evidence against those individuals.

The pair are also asking anyone who can to consider sheltering the animals they come across who were left out in the storm.

In addition to the pets rescued by the agency, Animal Care and Control also took in roughly 40 cats and dogs who were given up by their owners due to the impending storm.

Suave explained that surrenders are normal during storms, but the number was particularly high in the lead up to Irma.

'It's always disappointing,' she told USA Today about the surrenders. 'Our goal is to keep pets and people together.'

Relinquishing a pet to animal control or one of the two-pet friendly shelters in Palm Beach County means the individual gives up ownership of their animal and can't get them back when the storm ends.

'I feel torn about that at times,' Suave said to USA Today.

'But we're not a boarding facility.'

The ASPCA also worked throughout Irma's path in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to rescue up to 600 animals left in shelters or abandoned during the storm.

The agency set up an emergency shelter in Duncan, South Carolina, and expects to work through the week to continue moving animals to safety.

'It's critical for pet owners to consider their animals when preparing for any disaster, and we strongly urge them to always bring their animals with them if they have to evacuate their home,' ASPCA Vice President Tim Rickey said in a statement.

'The ASPCA stands ready to assist animals in Hurricane Irma's path, but the first and best line of defense for a pet will always be a well-prepared owner.'

Source: DailyMail.com
Photo: Getty Images