We are all aware of the incredibly destructive weather that has struck parts of the United States during the hurricane season – lives lost, homes ruined, possessions gone, not to mention displacement and, in many cases, discouragement and even despair that may take some time to leave those who have endured a mind-boggling experience.

Official help, both local and national, along with an outpouring of volunteers, has helped in various ways to address these tragedies. Unfortunately, the focus has been on humans, with little emphasis on animals caught in a torrent of horrendous weather, including those whose situation was made worse by human decisions. In Florida, for instance, some residents fleeing from Hurricane Irma chose to leave their pets behind, tied outside to a post or tree with no chance to escape.

Disturbing images show animals cringing and wet as the powerful winds swept by, while others were abandoned in cages, awaiting whatever fate might befall them. These pets were part of someone’s family – yet they were cast aside to perish as the flood waters rose.

The danger these animals faced as Irma inundated the state was compounded by an indifference to life that was nothing less than extreme animal abuse. Unfortunately, there’s no law in Florida against leaving a tethered animal behind during storm evacuations, though there certainly should be.

Of course, it can be very stressful for any living creature (humans included) to endure a hurricane, but that’s no reason to forget that the dog or cat you’ve been caring for, and hopefully treating kindly, wants to live as much as you do and deserves the same chance to survive that you’d want for yourself.

Volunteers have been helping to address the situation, and though the odds of helping all the animals who are suffering are not good, progress is being made. In Palm Beach County, 49 dogs and two cats were rescued from being tied up or otherwise restrained when there could have been massive flooding.

Unless we want to endorse a moral double standard, the situation should be clear: If a person has been secured to a tree or post during a life-threatening storm and is unable to escape and dies, it’s murder. It’s the same with the family pet, pure and simple. No one, human or animal, should be so cruelly mistreated.

Nonetheless, thanks to the efforts of many animal-friendly organizations and individuals, lives have been saved. As reported by local media, here in Maine, seven dogs and 10 cats that were evacuated from the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma will be available for adoption at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland after receiving medical care.

The Animal Rescue League and the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick are also preparing to take in a large number of dogs and several cats from a shelter in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Both the League and the Coastal Humane Society are among the shelters in New England that will take in animals from All Sato Rescue, the nonprofit shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico. All Sato raised nearly $80,000 to cover fuel costs to transport 200 animals to partner shelters in Maine and Massachusetts.

It’s a vital part of an inspiring effort, but it’s far from over. What can you do to help these animals in distress? You can adopt them because they all need a safe and loving home. You can donate to the Animal Refuge League (arlgp.org) the Coastal Humane Society (coastalhumanesociety.org) or to other organizations, such as Best Friends Animal Society (bestfriends.org) or the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca.org).

Whatever support you can offer is still badly needed. It’s not only a chance to do some good in a world that can always use as much of that all-too-rare quality as we can offer; it’s also an excellent way to help those who can’t help themselves, while reminding our fellow citizens that the concept of humane treatment originally stemmed from humanity itself.

Don Loprieno
Bristol