While many people are packing up their possessions and leaving Florida, dozens of volunteers are also working to evacuate animals that are stuck in the path of the Hurricane Irma.
Remote Area Medical, an organization that provides medical care to people in rural areas, departed from their headquarters in Knoxville Friday. The non-profit flew to Tampa, Florida to pick up as many dogs and cats that do not have owners and fly them back to East Tennessee.
Remote Area Medical unbolted seats so they would have more room to carry animals back from Florida.
“Of course our main operation is providing medical care, but we’ve got the medical teams out ready to help,” said founder Stan Brock.
The group has been helping in Texas for the last couple of weeks. Brock says their nurses and doctors are standing by to help those impacted in Florida and possibly Cuba. Dozens of volunteers are stepping up to help feed, walk and even adopt the animals.
Volunteers with the Humane Society are also working to move pets to other shelters.
Boarding facilities, animal shelters filled to capacity.
Hotels are not the only thing that is booked to capacity with people evacuating Hurricane Irma. Pet boarding facilities and animal shelters are also quickly reaching capacity.
Jerica Brackins, the owner of Loving Care Kennels in Sevierville, said she was having a hard time keeping up with the demand. She said she got 18 missed calls after closing time in just one hour. She said many evacuees are desperately looking for a place to bring their dog.
“I had one woman today, she called and left me a message this morning and I called her back and she was in tears because she thought she was going to have to leave her dog because she had nowhere to stay with her dog,” said Brackins.
Brackins’ Kennel can fit 24 dogs at a time. More than 20 of them are from evacuees.
“On top of everything else, they are having to worry about finding lodging for their pets,” said Brackins.
Animal shelters are also filling to capacity as they take in dogs and cats from other shelters that are in the path of Hurricane Irma. Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville has put out a call for emergency foster families for animals transported from Florida shelters.
Smoky Mountain K9 Cottages in Sevierville said they are expecting to house more than 60 days by the end of the weekend. Marni Sotomayor, who runs the shelter, says her normal capacity is 20, but volunteers are staying past business hours to help evacuees that were stuck in miles upon miles of back-ups.
“We will do everything we can to get them in here and there are lots of places around here that can,” Brackins said.