Heroic Woman Saves 300 Cats And Dogs From US Virgin Islands
Given the destruction following Hurricane Irma, it's not only humans whose lives have been devastated, but their pets as well.
Because of this, Sali Gear wants to evacuate all dogs and cats from the islands after they were left stranded in the wake of the hurricane.
The co-founder of Virginia Beach's Island Dog Rescue made a plan to steadily remove them from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, flying 20 of them to America per day for one week. Sadly, the news of Hurricane Maria meant she had to change her schedule, Huffington Post reports.
Gear, who grew up on the US Virgin Islands, instead made the decision to get all of the pets on board a private jet, taking them to Norfolk, Virginia, where she could care for them at her farm or entrust them to volunteers and rescue groups.
She offered to do this all for free, HuffPost reports, searching the islands for abandoned pets, or those in shelters, as well as those from good homes.
"This is a Herculean effort to save these animals," Gear told Virginia Beach TV news station WAVY 10. "So when I watched Irma build up, I called the shelters ahead of time and said, 'Hey, I'm here for you.'"
In total she saved around 300 pets, though she's humble in her efforts. She told the Pilot: "I did it because it had to be done. People have moved heaven and earth to make this happen."
300 cats & dogs from shelters in the @usvirginislands were successfully evacuated via @Amerijet cargo jet to ORF. Kudos VB @IslandRescueOrg pic.twitter.com/J8naQ799sn
- Norfolk Airport (@NorfolkAirport) September 20, 2017
This comes after police issued warnings that those who left pets during Hurricane Irma could face charges.
Nearly 50 dogs had been rescued by state authorities in Florida before Irma even hit. All of the animals were found outdoors and were trying to find safety, or had been left tied to poles. The state's office of animal control is now warning pet owners that they could face felony charges.
Palm Beach County state prosecutor Dave Aronberg has told the New York Post: "This is a prime example of animal cruelty.
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"We will find you, and we will prosecute you."
The Florida Health Department issued a message on Twitter before the storm hit, pleading with citizens to stick with their pets.
Authorities gathered evidence on the owners to file charges. But they're also calling on people who took animals in during the hurricane to come forward about where they found the pets and what condition they were in.
Do not leave your dogs tied up or chained when evacuating. Floodwaters are dangerous for people & pets. #Irma #FLprepares
- Florida Dept. Health (@HealthyFla) September 10, 2017
Animal Care and Control noted that there were 40 cats and dogs handed in before Irma made landfall. Making this decision is a tough one, but under Florida law, it's one that can't be reversed once the storm is over.
Agency Director Dianne Suave also told the New York Post: "'It's always disappointing. Our goal is to keep pets and people together.
She added to USA Today: "I feel torn about that at times, but we're not a boarding facility."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says they're still finding animals alone wherever the storm hit. They're relocating 100 animals from Miami to a specially devised shelter in South Carolina.
In a statement, the ASPCA said: "Moving that many animals is no easy task - each animal is examined by a veterinarian, behavior checks are performed, and since the animals are being transported out of state, health certificates are completed.
"Our relocation teams will identify shelters across the country that are in the position to help find these animals homes, and our teams will start moving them to their new destinations just as quickly as we possibly can."
Featured Image Credit: Island Dog Rescue
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