Mo the Sloth and Kramer the Emu are as innocent as they come, but they’re doing time in a county jail.
So are plenty of horses, llamas, alpacas, pigs, sheep, tropical birds, alligators, snakes, and a few other species that the sheriff’s office cares for at a farm for abandoned, abused, confiscated or donated animals.
The Monroe County Jail in the Keys is usually home to 426 human inmates. Because of the storm threat, these inmates were evacuated to facilities in Palm Beach County.
Rather than leave the cells vacant, it was decided that more than 250 animals would be moved indoors to protect them from Hurricane Irma’s storm surge, flooding rains and pounding wind.
A farm that cares for abandoned and confiscated animals moved its residents into Monroe County Jail after inmates were evacuated (Pictured, llamas and alpacas wander around the jail)
A total of 426 humans inmates were evacuated and more than 250 animals moved into the newly empty cells (Pictured, crates of snakes are moved into Monroe County Jail)
Those who care for the animals said they wanted them to be someplace unexposed to Hurricane Irma’s storm surge or flooding rains (Pictured, a sloth sits inside the jail)
All over Florida, from zoos to refuges to shelters, getting animals ready for the storm was a top priority as well.
‘We’re as ready as we can be,’ Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill said.
Five dolphins were moved from the Florida Keys to central Florida in advance of the storm, but most zoos and the like in the Miami area said they were trying to keep their animals in place and secure from whatever Irma will bring.
Animal lovers also were keeping track and doing what they could. One person accused a petting zoo near the northern edge of the Florida Keys of mistreating its animals by leaving them outside as the storm neared, a claim rebutted by the facility’s owners.
Authorities in Palm Beach County were being alerted to many animals chained or caged in yards by fleeing owners; these pets have been rescued and will have new homes, they said.
‘We are pretty clear when you surrender your animal you give up your rights,’ Dianne Sauve, the director of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, told the Sun Sentinel.
All over Florida, from zoos to refuges to shelters, getting animals ready for the storm was a top priority as well (Pictured, horses eat hay inside a holding cell at Monroe County Jail)
Some animal shelters were relocating dogs and cats to safer facilities, and a humane society near Tampa said it needed for temporary foster homes for more than 100 dogs (Pictured, a menagerie of reptiles sits inside Monroe County Jail)
Hundreds of thoroughbreds were moved from low-lying areas of Gulfstream Park, near Miami, to training facilities and barns farther north.
Some animal shelters were relocating dogs and cats to safer facilities, and a humane society near Tampa said it needed for temporary foster homes for more than 100 dogs.
‘We live in a hurricane-prone area so our facilities are designed to accommodate these storms,’ said Brian Dowling, the general curator at Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach County, where lions, chimpanzees, rhinos and more were staying put. ‘Obviously, everything can’t be hurricane-proof.’
Many of the safari’s animals were moved into pens designed to hold up even if nearby buildings were lost in storms or tornadoes. Others were kept in their usual day-to-day habitat, some even with gates left open within their normal spaces.
The reason, Dowling said, is simple: Animals sense when things aren’t right, and raising their stress can complicate matters.
‘We allow those animals to decide where they want to go,’ Dowling said. ‘It actually reduces the stress level considerably. Their instincts tell them how to ride out the storm.’
Authorities in Palm Beach County were being alerted to many animals chained or caged in yards by fleeing owners; these pets have been rescued and will have new homes, they said (Pictured, crates of animals are dropped off at Monroe County Jail)
Large bags of food and hay for the various animals housed at the jail were carted in Saturday
Horses, alpacas and llamas are dropped off at Monroe County Jail ahead of Hurricane Irma
Both SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay were keeping workers on-site at all hours to care for and monitor the animals. SeaWorld also took in the five adult male dolphins from Dolphin Discovery in Duck Key, where officials said they will stay ‘until they can be safely returned to their home in the Florida Keys’.
Irma provided another reminder of what hurricanes have done to the state’s ecosystem.
A quarter-century after Hurricane Andrew, its impact is still seen in the Everglades, where the invasive Burmese pythons decimating populations of native mammals are believed to be descended from exotic snake breeding facilities that were destroyed in the wind.
Most exotic animals that wandered loose in Andrew’s wake were recovered, but not the pythons.
And with only very large alligators to challenge them, the pythons have thrived in the wetlands. Estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000, but their presence can be seen in the near-total absence of rabbits or other small animals reported by hunters who are now paid by the state to kill the snakes.