LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Dozens of dogs left in a life-or-death situation after Hurricane Irma, but are now recovering thanks to the Lakeland animal rescue group that took them in.
Thirty Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepards were living on a massive property in Fort Meade in Polk County. But even before the storm, they were apparently sick and starving.
"[The owner was] a backyard breeder and, I hate to say it, trying to make a quick dollar." said Terry Sandlak, who is the chairman of the Florida Great Pyrenees Rescue group. "Very malnourished. There just was not enough food. There was too many dogs and he realized not enough homes [to adopt them]."
A little more than two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma devastated the property and destroyed much of the area in which the animals lived.
The situation only grew worse from there.
"The barn was caved in. The pens pretty much were damaged. Fencing was damaged, so there was multiple dogs on chains," Sandlak said. "The ones that were in pens were in water, were in feces, were in urine. It was pretty much survival of the fittest, what little food there was."
A friend told Sandlak about the issues. Not long after, she and Josh Duffey, a vet technician at Sandlak's Lakeland animal clinic, TLC PetSnip, drove the rescue group's RV to the Fort Meade property to save the dogs.
"You get mad and angry at how somebody could say they love these animals and when you look at them, they're not taken care of," she said. "Extremely heart-breaking, but your focus is when you're there just getting these dogs to safety."
After a day, the animals were all doing better.
"Almost all of them will come up to me and love on me and let me pet them and touch them, which yesterday they wouldn't even come to us," Duffey said.
Sandlak said law enforcement had not been contacted so there is no criminal investigation.She said it could take at least a month for the animals to be ready for adoption through the Florida Great Pyrenees Rescue Group.
Right now, the group needs volunteers to help socialize or foster the animals. Anyone who'd like to help can find contact information on their organization's website, floridapyrs.org. People can also contact the group's board by emailing email@example.com.