Nov. 3 (UPI) — Animal shelters in several U.S. states have taken in hundreds of cats and dogs displaced after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
While many parts of Puerto Rico remain without electricity, water, cell service and Internet access, overcrowded animal shelters like the Humane Society of Puerto Rico have sought to send animals to the mainland United States for care.
“Ever since Maria hit Puerto Rico, the situation has been very challenging for the shelters,” said Duane Adams, vice president of operations at the Denver Dumb Friends League.
The Denver Dumb Friends League, sister shelter to the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, took in more than 100 dogs and cats from the island in need of location. They will be dispersed to seven shelters throughout Colorado.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said Puerto Ricans are in “life-or-death situation,” as 70 percent of the island remains without power and 18 percent of households are without working taps nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria hit.
Suncoast Animal League, an animal shelter in western Florida, also returned from a rescue trip in Puerto Rico on Tuesday with more than 100 dogs and cats from shelters left with limited resources following the storm.
On a prior visit to Puerto Rico volunteers witnessed the overwhelmed state of the island’s shelters while delivering vaccinations and food for the animals. They promised to return to bring as many animals as possible back to the mainland.
“The human beings that are at the shelter are being very much overtaxed; they themselves don’t have water, electricity, they’re running out food … yet they are going into those animal shelters every day to take care of those dogs and cats,” Annette Dettloff, director of development for the shelter, said.
Volunteers packed two cargo planes with 15,000 pounds of supplies, which they took to Puerto Rico when they returned to pick up the animals.
The Seattle Humane Society completed the largest Life-Saver Rescue transfer in its history on Monday, taking in 154 animals evacuated from Puerto Rico.
The shelter also helped reunite Rafael Perez, a 70-yer-old Puerto Rican man living in Chicago after being displaced by the storm, with a group of eight stray dogs he cared for back on the island via a video call the next day.
“This afternoon our team coordinated with his family to video call Rafael so he could see his beloved ‘children’ again. Sati, Chocolate, Oso, Toño, Pepe, Canela, Rocky, and Toby wagged their tails in delight when they heard his voice,” Seattle Humane wrote. “Rafael and his family cried tears of joy and thanked us endlessly for helping them get the dogs to safety, and find them loving homes.”