Local organization helping pets left behind in Tampa Bay during Hurricane Irma

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When Hurricane Irma approached Florida, many families started to evacuate and, in some instances, left their pets behind.

Paige Graham of Paws ‘n’ Rec says it’s an image she will never get out of her head — a 5-year-old dog named Molly and her 5-week-old puppy named Ducky inside a cage in the yard of a Riverview home after being left behind by their owners.

“I couldn’t stop crying when we walked in the back,” Graham said. “The mom was covered in feces. The puppy was in a corner shaking, she could barely walk.”

Graham and her fiance took the two dogs in. They soon found themselves with 34 animals after getting calls from strangers who were also finding strays on the street.

“A lot of people are just getting dogs for the fun of it,” Graham said.

She and her fiance have a combined 15 years in the animal care industry. Both worked at Lucky Dog Daycare and Resort in South Tampa and were fired over allegations from the owner that they didn’t put the safety of the dogs first.

It wasn’t long before former Lucky Dog customers started calling and their next chapter began.

“I made it into a more positive situation for them and a safer one,” Graham said.

Graham and her fiance started Paws ‘n’ Rec. They come to your home and you decide what you want them to do. It’s not just dog-sitting or lunchtime walks.

She says a lot of people don’t trust facilities anymore. We asked, if that’s true, why should they trust Paws ‘n’ Rec?

“I think the biggest thing is we have nothing to hide,” she said. “This is what we’ve always wanted to do. This is all we will ever do.”

If you know of any dogs in unfit conditions after Hurricane Irma, Paws ‘n’ Rec wants to hear from you so they can get them the medical attention they need in hopes of finding them a forever home.

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