Three weeks after Ian, hard-hit Floridians are still searching for lost pets – The Washington Post


FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — As the water from Hurricane Ian’s storm surge rose, Joseph Salvaggio climbed into his attic and huddled with his two cats. They stayed there for 20 hours, Mittens and Zoey keeping their owner warm as he waited for someone to rescue them.

“We were trapped in the attic with no place to go,” Salvaggio, 83, said. “They laid there very quietly. They were very, very good.”

When rescue workers helped him out of his wrecked home the next day in Fort Myers Beach — one of the hardest hit parts of Southwest Florida — Salvaggio gently dropped the cats down. Indoor cats spooked by the storm and the strangers, they darted through the opening left where the front door had been torn off its hinges.

Salvaggio lost many precious belongings, including the urn holding the ashes of his wife of 43 years, Arlene, who died in 2021. But losing his cats, cherished pets that he and his wife had raised, was unbearable.

“They’re my family,” he said.

Hurricane Ian killed more than 100 people in Florida. It also resulted in scores of animal deaths and left many others missing. Three weeks after Ian made landfall, animal rescue workers are still finding pets that disappeared during the storm and trying to connect them to their owners. The rescuers say the same factors that led to human deaths — late warnings, reluctance to evacuate, immense storm surge — likely caused hundreds of pets to perish as well.

“We have a situation where there’s so much devastation and loss, because people didn’t think it was going to hit here, so they stayed,” said Lawrence Garcia, the medical director of the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service team at the University of Florida. “It could be they couldn’t get out in time, or they lacked resources to evacuate. What we see is many people will take care of their animals before themselves. Their pet is a family member.”

It’s not just family pets that were impacted. Hundreds of large farm animals were killed from high …….


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