CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Disaster plans aren't just for first responders, they're for animal control departments too and after Charley, there were plenty of pet problems.
Charlotte County Animal Control division manager Brian Jones says their hurricane plan didn't take into account what really happened after Hurricane Charley.
"We really thought that livestock running at large would be the problem," he recalled. "What we discovered was dog bites quadrupled overnight. You had people, volunteers, strangers, compromised homes, dogs that were disoriented and territorial of their property and volunteers were getting bit daily."
Responding to animal bites posed a particular problem since communications were knocked out after the storm.
"If an animal bites you we have to get proof of the rabies vaccine... we had to rely on paper trails," Brian explained.
With the workload mounting, Brian says they were grateful to see help come from across the country.
"We couldn't have made it through without them because not only did myself and staff have to work countless hours, to try to identify the animal problems, but we had to go home to our own personal tragedies," he explained.
The Humane Society of the United States set up a staging area to provide free pet food to displaced families with pets. Veterinarians from out-of-town donated their time to treat sick and stressed animals. Animal control officers from throughout the state showed up to relieve Charlotte County officers.
Also an issue, was finding a place for the storm strays. At one point, the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood counted more than 600 animals displaced by Charley and Hurricane Frances which made landfall in Florida just weeks later.
With hundreds of animals unclaimed, new owners lined up to give a home to these storm survivors.
A 2006 law mandated that every county in the state have a pet friendly hurricane shelter. However, emergency managers all stress the best plan is to evacuate before a storm with your pet and to never leave your animals behind.