Hurricane Florence Heroes Saved These Animals and More

Caring Americans risked it all — on foot, in boats, in buses — to make sure these vulnerable dogs and cats were rescued

Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In natural disasters such as hurricanes and other tropical storms, it’s critical to get citizens to safety as soon as possible.

Just as vulnerable in weather crises are beloved pets, along with shelter animals that don’t have a loving family to help them. (A rescuer is seen carrying a dog to the safety in the photo above.)

Animals in need depend on the kindness of neighbors — and strangers like Tony Alsup of Greenback, Tennessee, who transported an amazing 64 animals (53 dogs and 11 cats) from four South Carolina shelters in a school bus ahead of the historic storm that ravaged the Carolinas.

“It’s so easy for people to adopt the small pets and the cuties and the cuddly,” said Alsup, 51, standing next to his bus, which smelled strongly of soaked dogs, as the Greenville News reported.

“We take on the ones that deserve a chance even though they are big and a little ugly. But I love big dogs, and we find places for them.”

This was not Alsup’s first rescue. He’s hauled shelter pets out of hurricane zones in Texas and Florida, and has even flown to Puerto Rico to save endangered animals. Rescues like these have become a calling, he said.

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It all started after he accidentally overpromised a Texas shelter. While working his job as a trucker, he saw an online plea from them for help, looking to find volunteers to transport animals out of the path of Hurricane Harvey last year.

Alsup offered to assist, planning to take one or two dogs in the cab of his semi. The shelter thought he was able to transport many more dogs to safety.

“So I said, you know what, why don’t I just go buy a bus?” he remembered.

Soon, Alsup had spent $3,200 to buy an old school bus, and he’s been driving into hurricane zones ever since.

Sometimes he hauls supplies in, noted the Greenville News — but he always hauls dogs out.

When Hurricane Florence was still a few days from landfall, Alsup drove his school bus to shelters in four South Carolina towns — North Myrtle Beach, Dillon, Georgetown and Orangeburg — and loaded up 64 animals. He bused them to an awaiting shelter in Foley, Alabama. From there, the pets will go to a variety of shelters around the country.

“I love it,” Alsup said. “People don’t believe me. They say it’s got to be barking crazy. But no. They [the animals] know I’m the alpha dog, and I’m not here to hurt them.”

In other heartwarming news, a group of people waded through knee-deep water caused by Florence last Sunday, rescuing six dogs that were locked inside a flooded kennel.

Freelance journalist Marcus DiPaola recorded the rescue in Leland, North Carolina, after the dogs were left behind, howling and scared, in an outdoors cage as the hurricane came barreling through.

The group jumped into action. One of them unlocked the kennel and allowed the dogs to swim to dry land, where they were then fed. It’s not known how long the dogs were trapped inside or if the owners knew they were left behind.

“We got them out, but by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned,” DiPaola wrote on Twitter.

Another group to pitch in is Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves, Florida. Before the storm hit, this group sent vans to North Carolina and South Carolina to collect dogs and bring them to Florida; the animals arrived safely around noon last Wednesday.

“Any time a natural disaster strikes, there is a collaborative effort to save lives,” Big Dog Ranch Rescue founder and president Lauree Simmons said to the Palm Beach Post. “Floridians know how devastating a hurricane can be, and it’s our responsibility to help our neighbors during difficult times.”

A total of 22 dogs were brought to Big Dog Ranch Rescue, and more could follow, kennel technician Angie Seagrave said.

The dogs are expected to stay in Palm Beach County.

“It would be too hard for them to readjust if we had to send them back to the Carolinas,” Seagrave explained.

Big Dog Ranch Rescue is looking for donations to help the dogs. (Donations can be made by visiting its website.) The group needs towels, blankets, comforters, sheets, and bowls, among other items, Seagrave said.

The group also plans to send buses loaded with supplies to areas hit hard by the storm, Simmons said.

“What we’ve seen in the past after hurricanes, when homes are damaged, people dump pets at shelters,” she said. “They get inundated with dogs and cats, and these shelters fill up very fast. It will take an effort from everyone to keep them safe and find them homes.”

See the dogs rescued from the outside cage in the video below.

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