Looking for special needs, pet-friendly shelters in west Florida ahead of Hurricane Ian?

Tiffany Tompkins/ttompkins@bradenton.com

If you decide to evacuate your home ahead of Hurricane Ian, you will need to make plans in advance for your loved ones with special needs, service animals and pets.

Special-needs shelters provide care to residents whose medical condition may require the use of electrical equipment, oxygen, dialysis, or individuals with physical, cognitive, or medical conditions that may require assistance from medical professionals.

Pet-friendly shelters may have an area dedicated for pets but know that most shelters don’t allow pets, although they do permit service animals.

Here is a list of shelters that offer services for these populations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

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Hillsborough County has four special-needs shelters:

  • Erwin Technical, 2010 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa

  • Sumner Elementary, 16650 Co. Rd. 672, Riverview

  • Strawberry Crest High School, 4591 Gallagher Rd., Dover

  • Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Rd., Riverview

To register online for a special-needs shelter in Hillsborough, visit hillsboroughcounty.org/en/residents/public-safety/emergency-management/action-folder/register-for-special-needs-disaster-assistance.

The county also has 12 pet-friendly shelters, including the four that are for special-needs people:

  • Burnett Middle, 1010 N Kingsway Rd., Seffner

  • Durant High School, 4748 Cougar Path, Plant City

  • Sickles High School, 7950 Gunn Highway, Tampa

  • Steinbrenner High School ,5575 W. Lutz Lake Fern Rd., Lutz

  • Shields Middle, 5732 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin

  • Bartels Middle, 9190 Imperial Oaks Blvd., Tampa

  • Barrington Middle, 5925 Village Center Dr., Lithia

  • Smith, SGT Paul Middle ,14303 Citrus Pointe Dr., Tampa

For a complete and updated list of shelters in Hillsborough and pet shelter requirements, visit hillsboroughcounty.org/residents/public-safety/emergency-management/emergency-shelters. Hillsborough buses will continue to run their regular routes until further notice. Bus drivers will transport evacuees to a bus transfer center, where they will be taken to the closest open shelter. For more information, visit gohart.org.


Pinellas County has four shelters for special-needs people:

  • Dunedin Highland Middle, 70 Patricia Ave., Dunedin (closed as of 5 p.m. Tuesday)

  • John Hopkins Middle, 701 16th St S, St. Petersburg

  • Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th St N, St. Petersburg

  • Palm Harbor University High, 1900 Omaha St, Palm Harbor (pet friendly)

To register online for a special-needs shelter in Pinellas, visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/specialneeds.htm#register. Before leaving your home, verify which shelters are open.

The county also has three pet-friendly shelters:

  • Gibbs High 850 34th St S, St. Petersburg

  • Largo High 410 Missouri Ave., Largo

  • Palm Harbor University High 1900 Omaha St., Palm Harbor (special needs)

For pet shelter requirements, visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/petpreparedness.htm. For a complete and updated list of shelters in Pinellas, visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/shelters.htm#shelterlist. Buses will continue to run routes free of charge to help people get prepared for a storm until it is no longer safe to travel. To learn more, visit psta.net.


Manatee County has one special-needs shelter:

  • Nolan Middle School 6615 Greenbrook Blvd, Bradenton

The county also has four pet-friendly shelters:

  • Braden River High School, 6545 State Road 70 E., Bradenton

  • Manatee High School, 902 33rd St. Ct. W., Bradenton

  • Mills Elementary School, 7200 69th St E., Palmetto

  • Buffalo Creek Middle School, 7320 69th St E., Palmetto

For a complete and updated list of shelters in Manatee, visit extreme-weather-dashboard-manateegis.hub.arcgis.com/pages/emergency-evacuations-and-shelters. And for pet shelter requirements, visit mymanatee.org/news___events/what_s_new/manatee_county_to_open_storm_shelters_tuesday. Public transportation information wasn’t immediately available early Tuesday evening.


All 12 shelters in Sarasota County are pet-friendly, according to its website, which didn’t list any for “special needs” people.

For information about shelters in Sarasota, visit scgov.net/government/emergency-services/emergency-management/evacuation-centers, or dial 311. And for public transportation, visit cgov.net/government/emergency-services/emergency-management/transportation-plan-hurricane-evacuation-centers.


Information wasn’t immediately available about special-needs shelters in Charlotte County. All four of the county’s shelters are pet-friendly:

  • Liberty Elementary School, 370 Atwater St., Port Charlotte

  • Neil Armstrong Elementary School, 22100 Breezeswept Ave., Port Charlotte

  • Kingsway Elementary School, 23300 Quasar Blvd., Port Charlotte

  • Harold Avenue Regional Park Recreation Center, 23400 Harold Ave., Port Charlotte

For more information on Charlotte’s shelters, visit charlottecountyfl.gov/departments/public-safety/emergency-management/shelter-listing.stml.


Pets are allowed in all 12 Lee County shelters, but it wasn’t immediately clear if any are for special-needs people. The registration for the county’s special-needs program is closed until the emergency is over. For more information, including a list of shelters, visit leegov.com/publicsafety/emergencymanagement/shelters.


Information about Collier County’s special-needs shelters wasn’t immediately available. Four out of seven shelters in the county are pet-friendly:

  • Oak Ridge Middle School, 14975 Collier Blvd., Naples

  • Corkscrew Middle School, 1165 Oil Well Rd., Naples

  • Golden Gate Middle School, 2701 48th Terrace SW., Naples

  • Immokalee Middle School, 401 North 9th St., Immokalee

For more information on Collier’s shelters, visit colliercountyfl.gov/Home/Components/News/News/46157/1536?backlist=%2fhome.