Hurricane

With demand high, Miami-Dade creates more shelter space for pets and their owners

Sheltering people and pets from Hurricane Irma

Sheltering people and pets from Hurricane Irma People evacuating from Hurricane Irma can bring their pets with them to the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo Shelter. The shelter accepts dogs, cats and any pet in a cage.
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Sheltering people and pets from Hurricane Irma People evacuating from Hurricane Irma can bring their pets with them to the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo Shelter. The shelter accepts dogs, cats and any pet in a cage.

Miami-Dade County on Saturday created a new pet-friendly shelter out of one that hadn’t been accepting animals, ending a several-hour stretch when people had to choose between staying home or leaving their pets at a shelter that didn’t have any more room for humans.

Shortly before 3 p.m., the county said the Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College (5780 NW 158th Street, Miami Lakes) was now open for both people and people with animals. [For a list of Miami-Dade shelters, click here.]

The news came late in the evacuation process for Hurricane Irma, with county buses having already halted their shelter pick-ups at 2 p.m. Earlier Saturday, Miami-Dade had briefly announced it no longer had room in shelters for pets. Then that shifted into a novel offer: people seeking shelter could drop off their pets at Highland Oaks Middle School in a crate or cage with food, but the owners themselves would need to seek refuge elsewhere.

Nearly 30,000 people have sought refuge in the county's shelters amid an unprecedented evacuation order targeting more than 600,000 people. There are 970 pets in the shelters, said Michael Hernández, the county’s communications director.

With time winding down to clear out before strong winds arrive in Miami, two of the county's three pet-friendly shelters were listed as completely full and a third listed as being at capacity for pets. Shortly after the posting, Miami-Dade said the Highland Oaks Middle School would resume accepting pets, but not their owners. People can drop off their pets at Highland Oaks (2375 NE 203rd St., Miami) as long as they are in cages and arrive with food. Then their owners can find shelter elsewhere.

While it had 42 shelters operating Friday night, Miami-Dade started with just eight operating in the morning. The county struggled to get the shelters open in time, citing a lack of staffing, coordination and other glitches. Once a Category 5 storm, Irma prompted Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to order an unprecedented evacuation targeting more than 600,000 residents.

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