Good morning everyone! I know we have been posting a lot lately about COVID and closures and promoting local businesses in lieu of much else going on in the “news.” But, today we have a very important initiative to share with you. And it is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts!
Nearly three years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Irma and the shadow of Maria, over 1000 men, women, and children were evacuated from St. John. Many of you may remember another type of evacuation effort that was ongoing during this frightening and uncertain time.
Following the storms, hundreds of animals were evacuated from local shelters in the USVI, BVI and Puerto Rico due to the combined dedication of those local shelters with overflowing capacity and newly developed stateside partnerships. They were flown to safety in the states to find their forever homes, escaping unsatisfactory conditions in overcrowded shelters and, in some cases, possible euthanization.
Three years later, we find our island shelters in a similar position amidst an already active hurricane season. COVID has helped to deliver yet another set of challenges for frustrated volunteers and employees who watch helplessly as capacity grows without a way to get these animals out. Understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded with four times their capacity, Caribbean animal shelters must now face the decision to end the lives of the animals they work so hard to save.
Ryan Moore, shelter manager of The ACC of St. John, explained how stateside partnerships grew after record-breaking Hurricanes Irma and Maria, of which the Islands have still not fully rebounded. “Now that we work with many wonderful stateside rescues, the cost of transporting these animals falls on the ACC. Just doing one basic transport of a dog on a commercial flight is at least $200; if they fly cargo, that amount is easily tripled for one animal,” says Moore.
Since the start of COVID-19, animals have been restricted from all commercial cargo flights, as these flights severely diminished in frequency.
“Imagine being stuck on an island with no way off but a rescue flight that may never come—that’s exactly what these animals face,” says Anne Bequette, spokesperson and documentarian for The ACC of St. John.
The Animal Care Center (ACC) of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is leading the efforts to raise $60,000 for lifesaving private cargo rescue flights through Flamenco Cargo, which will save nearly 300 animals from its shelter, along with those from St. Thomas Humane Society and Off The Rocks Rescue in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques Humane Society in Puerto Rico, and PAW BVI in the British Virgin Islands. Logistics are already in place to transport the animals to various stateside shelters such as Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Florida and Stray Rescue St. Louis in Missouri.
Currently, the ACC is 40% over capacity. The St. Thomas Humane Society is caring for more than TWO HUNDRED animals than they are allotted. PAW BVI faces their own set of challenges as a rise in COVID cases sets the territory into lock down mode again TODAY and threatens the scheduled evacuation of 24 animals on Friday. The Vieques Humane Society has seen only ONE transport for their rescues in the past six months.
Additionally, local residents on all of the islands are financially impaired and looking to the shelters to help them keep their OWN rescues fed and healthy. The shelters are faced with rising bills for supplies and overhead while being unable to conduct their normal fundraising activities due to social distancing and a financially struggling community who is generally a critical form of fiscal support for local non-profits.
This AMAZING partnership has raised enough money to cover the flight departing this Friday with animals from the five shelters. But that’s not enough to get the remaining animals comfortable and the shelters in a place where they can properly care for them. The group is attempting to raise an additional $30k to arrange another flight in two weeks. In total, the two flights will be responsible for getting 300 rescued animals to safety and, hopefully, their FURever homes!
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:::
The fundraising efforts are centralized at this gofundme and are being overseen by the ACC. We know everyone is in a tough spot right now, but if just 1000 people each give just $30….Well, that’s a flight booked for 150 pups and kitties!
If you still need a bit more convincing, take a moment to check out the Animal Care Center on St. John and the video in the gofundme that documents the 2017 animal evacuations. It’s time for a little feel good stuff. Let’s do this!
***All photos courtesy of the lovely Anne Bequette – STJ Creative!