How 50 cats and 220 dogs drowned inside Bahamas animal shelter

We now have the full story of how the cats and dogs drowned at the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. I think it is worth telling. Lessons can be learned.

The executive director of the shelter, Elizabeth Burrows, had believed that the shelter building would keep the flood water out. It was built off the ground and it had proved to be effective in previous storms.

Humane Society of Grand Bahama

Humane Society of Grand Bahama

But Hurricane Dorian proved too strong as it moved slowly over the island and pummelled it. The massive storm surge was too high. Water came into the shelter.

Staff were inside at the time. They tried to save the animals by raising their cages higher off the ground. The water rose to chest height.

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At that point the staff decided that they had to save themselves and they were forced to abandon the animals. The staff climbed into the attic.

They heard the crying of the animals as the water rose and drowned them. The howling of the dogs and the crying of the cats stopped and there was silence. Two hundred dogs and fifty cats died during those agonising moments.

I am sure that there is a sense of responsibility for the loss of the animals.

Vehicle under water

Vehicle under water during the hurricane. Screenshot from CNN video.

Humane Society of Grand Bahama after the hurricane

Humane Society of Grand Bahama after the hurricane. Screenshot from CNN video

It is not appropriate for me at this time to discuss in depth what went wrong. The hurricane was too strong for the building. I’d say one thing (with respect); were the cages opened to release the animals? It would have allowed them to swim and as the waters rose the animals would have been taken towards the attic or through windows. Also, several or many animal shelters on the mainland and one on Outer Banks evacuated their animals ahead of the hurricane.

Some of the cats and dogs were left with the shelter for safe keeping during the hurricane but most where waiting to be adopted.

Some dogs died after the hurricane had receded. Seventy-five dogs and fifty cats survived. The flood destroyed the shelter’s medical supplies, food and their vehicles.

An earlier post:

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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8 Responses

  1. Guest3457 says:

    These people were WARNED to evacuate. This is CRIMINAL!

  2. Guest3457 says:

    Michael Broad writes, “I am sure that there is a sense of responsibility for the loss of the animals.” What a stupid thing to say. WHY WOULD YOU ASSUME THAT? These slovenly people couldn’t even be bothered to give the animals any kind of a chance by opening their cages!!

  3. Guest3457 says:

    Elizabeth Burrows, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Grand Bahamas should have gone down with the ship. She should have freed the animals and at least let them take their chances. But to ABANDON them, and then listen as their screaming and howling slowly died as they drowned frantically scrambling for air in their cages is CRIMINAL. Charges should be brought and accountability brought to bear on ALL the workers. These animals were entrusted to their care!

    • Thanks for commenting and expressing your feelings about this tragedy. I didn’t want to be too harsh in criticising but if an inquest were to be held on what went wrong, the managers would have to agree that they screwed up big time. And their poor decision making cost the lives of many dogs and cats.

  4. Mary says:

    The staff climbed into the attic – why did they do so alone?

    It makes no sense why the staff didn’t *first* load as many of their charges, the animals, into the attic as possible, and then move the larger, stronger dogs who couldn’t fit outside of the building so they could at least have a good chance at survival by swimming and / or staying on the building roof until rescue arrived.

    Shame on them!

    • I think they coold have done a lot more in terms of evacuating the cats and dogs before the hurricane’s arrival and then if as happened they were trapped they could have released them all and got them into the attic or at least some of them although it must have been very difficult.

    • Guest3457 says:

      AMEN!! Load them on the roof. Or better yet, EVACUATE before the storm since these people had plenty of warning in advance! THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THESE MURDERS.

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