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Florida animal shelters expect an influx of dogs and cats following Hurricane Ian

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Aside from the human losses, it is not a small thing at all that Hurricane Ian displaced thousands of pets. So one local animal shelter is organizing airlifts. NPR's Scott Neuman has been tracking their efforts.

SCOTT NEUMAN, BYLINE: On the tarmac of a small airport south of Fort Myers, Sarah Baeckler and a team from the Humane Society Naples wait for a twin-engine turboprop to taxi up to several waiting SUVs. They are about to do a swap. Dozens of empty dog crates will be taken off and 40 cats and kittens loaded on, bound for a shelter in Tennessee.

SARAH BAECKLER: After we get the crates off, we'll put the cats on. And they'll be on their way.

NEUMAN: It's the first of two such airlifts on this day. The second plane will fly both cats and dogs. It's not cheap, but the flights are necessary. Some roads are impassable due to flooding. The Humane Society also needs to clear shelter space for an expected wave of new arrivals.

BAECKLER: And then the next phase that we're going to get ready for as soon as we get done with these couple of days is there'll be an influx of surrendered animals from people who - you know, who have other things they have to deal with post-hurricane.

NEUMAN: At the shelter, that influx has already begun. A distraught Theresa Barteau (ph) had to leave her storm-damaged house. It could be months before she's able to move back. Meanwhile, she can't find a hotel that will take her 6-year-old Pitbull-Weimaraner mix, Dolly (ph), until things get sorted out.

THERESA BARTEAU: And, like, just - we're so close to Dolly. And we don't want to see her surrendered. We want to find a place for her...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No, no.

BARTEAU: ...That we can get her back.

NEUMAN: Barteau has every intention of being reunited with Dolly. But shelter staff say for many others in natural disasters such as Hurricane Ian, circumstances never improve to the point where they're able to reclaim their pets.

Scott Neuman, NPR News, Naples, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.