The Humane Society of Grand Bahama in Freeport was housing about 155 cats and at least 135 dogs when Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, parking over the Caribbean Islands for more than two days.
Some of the animals were shelter residents, while some had been dropped off by pet owners who couldn't evacuate with or take care of their animals during the storm.
About 80 cats and 90 dogs survived, according to the shelter. The Miami Herald reported that, in all, 113 cats and dogs died during the storm.
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“We lost some dogs that various staff, including me, were super attached to,” the shelter's director, Tip Burrows, told the paper. “That’s hard. That’s really hard.”
The Humane Society of Grand Bahama takes in about 1,400 stray animals annually, according to their website. Most of the dogs housed there are "Potcakes" — mixed breed mutts named after a popular Bahamian dish of peas and rice.
The Humane Society of Grand Bahama was boarded up in preparation for the storm and six staffers were tasked with taking care of the animals for the duration of the hurricane.
The flooding started slowly on Sept. 2, but quickly rose to five feet, according to posts on Facebook from shelter representatives. Soon the staff was stranded. The next day, the staffers were able to swim out of the shelter, but they couldn't get to the animals to check on their conditions.
When Burrows was finally able to get to the shelter, she discovered the carnage. But she also found many cats had been able to climb to higher points to survive. She later found 74 dogs alive, and then another 15 in the back of the shelter.
Another dog was found in an "upstairs bathroom where it was perched on a door and debris for two days," said a Facebook post on Sept. 5. "The owner has been contacted and cried with gratitude to hear the news."
The shelter is inoperable after the storm. The surviving animals will be transported to the U.S.
"We are working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare ... to properly and safely evacuate our shelter animals to the United States within the coming weeks, without interfering with the safety and rescue of human lives," said a post from the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. The animals will end up at HALO No-Kill Rescue Shelter, in Sebastian, Florida.