Four-legged evacuees looking for homes ahead of Irma

PETER.WILLOTT@STAUGUSTINE.COM Two cats sit on a cage at local pet rescue group SAFE’s St. Augustine location on Thursday, September 07, 2017. The animals are among the 50 cats and 100 dogs the group is planning to relocate before Hurricane Irma.

While local residents may still be deciding whether to evacuate or not before the impending hurricane, the decision is being made for animals at two facilities run by the local pet rescue group SAFE.


Organizers of the St. Augustine animal shelter began making plans on Thursday to relocate nearly 100 dogs and 50 cats.

SAFE has two locations, one on Anastasia Island and the other at Treasure Beach, both of which are in Evacuation Zone A.

The shelter is looking for families in other areas to foster animals in their homes through early next week.

“We really need to get them placed by Friday so we can clean up the shelter and close it before the storm,” Robin Kanter, director and president of SAFE told The Record on Thursday.

After just returning from a mission to rescue displaced animals affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houson, Kanter and other volunteers have now turned their attention to the storm threatening their own backyard. In the last several days, they began moving dogs considered the least suitable for fostering to another shelter in Putnam County.

The hope is the remainder will be welcomed into local homes.

“Obviously, it’s going to be better for them to ride out the storm with a family than in a very crowded shelter,” Kanter said.

Those most in need of fostering include a female bulldog mix and her recent litter of pups; five basset hound puppies who were recently weaned from their mother; and several medium-sized dogs who are in need of medicine.

The plan for the cats is to try to get as many as possible fostered out. As a backup, SAFE can bring some to a thrift store they run in Palatka.

Potential fosters will be asked to fill out forms and make sure the pets they take in are a good match for their home, even temporarily. SAFE will provide food for the animals and crates for the dogs.

Kanter said the organization handled the relocation of its animals for Hurricane Matthew similarly last year, and it seemed to work well.

They are asking that foster families keep the animals through next Wednesday, which should give them time to get their facilities up and running again. Of course, if a home is a good fit, a permanent adoption can be arranged.

“There’s always that hope,” Kanter said, “but there’s no pressure.”

For information about fostering a pet, text Robin Kanter at 904-325-0196. To support SAFE with a donation, visit