Hurricane

Pets cope with Hurricane Matthew at a storm shelter just for them

Linda Martin's three Yorkies — Big G, Benji and Love — wait in their crate to enter pet-friendly shelter in Tamarac.
Linda Martin's three Yorkies — Big G, Benji and Love — wait in their crate to enter pet-friendly shelter in Tamarac. aburch@miamiherald.com

At 10 years old, Little One has been through a storm before, but nothing like what Hurricane Matthew promises.

"She is scared of loud noises and lightning and I am too," said Marie Griffin, 63, who raised the miniature Doberman since she was a puppy. "I am handicapped and I don't know which way this storm is going to go. I would not have been able to get out of my trailer or take Little One with me. We do everything together so we are here together."

That sentiment — that pets are family — and the uncertainty of Matthew's path drove dozens of people to Broward County's pet-friendly shelter at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac.

By Thursday afternoon, the shelter has 55 clients, 18 cats, 27 dogs and two birds — including a plump cat from Dania Beach named Rudy, adopted from the streets a year ago, and a trio of excited Yorkies from Margate named Benji, Big G and Love.

The shelter can hold much more: 350 pets, 500 people.

"We have never had this response before," said Sharron Carmichael, shelter manager who works for the Humane Society. "We know that if it is not safe at your home for you, it is also not safe for your pet."

Addison Chi, 39, and Scott Ritcey, 47 and their sheltie, Maisie, evacuated their home in Hallandale Beach on Thursday morning.

"We live in a mobile home so we made the decision to come here," Chi said. "We could bring Maisie and it's the safest thing go do."

In Miami-Dade, only shelter accepts pets — that's the Darwin Fuchs Pavilion in the Youth Fair complex. The latest count from there was 36 people, six dogs, two cars and three parakeets.

In Fort Lauderdale, at a people-only shelter, a crowd had gathered on Wednesday night, well before the doors opened.

They were the first to arrive, toting suitcases, pillows and bags of prescription medication.

They mostly live on the eastside in Hurricane Matthew's possible path. Some were homeless with no other place to go, others living in homes that didn't have the right protections.

"I am homeless. There is no way I can ride out a Category 3 or 4 outside," said Ken Roberts, 59, who came to Fort Lauderdale from Asheville, North Carolina, last year. "I would not make it."

Roberts, an Army veteran, accepted a ride from a police officer to the Arthur Ashe Middle School/Rock Island Elementary school, now serving as a shelter.

With Matthew hours away, about 565 have registered at the shelter, which has a capacity to hold 1,300 at the schools combined. The shelter accommodates people in gyms, classrooms and other spaces.

"When they enter the door, they now have a place to lay or sit or stand safely," said Randy Mayweather, a Red Cross shelter manager.

Janice Wilson, 53, said that she listened to the news reports and knew she had to leave the house where she was staying with friends. She had arrived in Florida from New York in 1992, just days before Hurricane Andrew roared through South Florida — and she was in a labor pool that helped clean up the devastation wrought by the storm. She knew.

"So, I know what this is like," she said Thursday morning as she organized a bag of crocheted items she sells to make a living. "I am not scared, but I want to be safe."

Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

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