Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
By Raisa Bruner
September 17, 2018

Note to those evacuating areas due to storms and natural disasters: when possible, bring your pets with you.

That’s the takeaway from recent viral news stories coming out in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, which are drawing attention to the plight of the animals left behind as owners are forced to flee the flooded region.

One journalist, freelancer Marcus DiPaola, put a spotlight on the issue after joining a local rescuer who waded through post-storm waters to help free six dogs who were locked in an outdoor cage where the water was “rapidly rising” in Leland, NC. “We got them out, but by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned,” DiPaola warned in his now-viral tweet, showing the pups clawing at their cage’s door as the rescuers approached. “BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU!”

While DiPaola has said he “came to North Carolina to cover a story, not become the story, for obvious ethical reasons,” the dogs aren’t the only lives he’s helped saved; a feral kitten struggling with the flood waters was also, luckily, in DiPaola’s path. He also documented a family and their dog getting a lift from a dump truck, in a creative use of local vehicles.

And then there’s Tony Alsup, a concerned citizen from Tennessee who made a trip to South Carolina to transport a school bus full of over 60 shelter dogs and cats out of harm’s way. Alsup bought the school bus after Hurricane Harvey, and rescuing shelter pets during natural disasters has become something of a hobby. “People don’t believe me, they say it’s got to be barking crazy,” Alsup told a reporter. “But no.”

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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