Good Afternoon! And a Happy Wednesday to you all…A few weeks ago we ran a story on the Animal Care Center on St. John and a co-op of organizations dedicated to evacuating 300 animals from the USVI, BVI and Puerto Rico. In this story, these organizations were seeking financial support to safely transfer these rescues to their stateside partners. Here’s what happened….
On August 28th, the first transport flight departed St. Thomas with 115 pups and kitties on board and headed to West Palm, FL. It was known from the beginning that not all the animals would fit on the first flight, hence the need for not only one, but two flights.
This first flight was funded largely by a private donor. Tara LoRDI, owner of Weedoo Boats out of West Palm Beach, gave the initial $26,500 to evacuate this first round of animals from St. Thomas to South Florida.
When the fur babies arrived on the ground in West Palm, 15 rescue organizations from 11 states were waiting to transport them to safe shelters, foster families and forever homes (I’m not crying, you’re crying).
Although this first flight was super successful, the work wasn’t done yet! The shelter organizers and volunteers in the three territories still had over 200 animals that needed transportation to the states. This second flight was completely unfunded until publicity, crowd funding and generous donations from people like you came into play.
The entirety of the $44,000 for the second transport was funded via the gofundme, managed by the ACC. On September 15th, a small plane was chartered to fly from St. Thomas to Vieques to pick up 8 puppies, and 2 dogs so that they could make the next rescue flight out.
The ACC housed the Vieques animals until their freedom flight later that week. On September 18, a second flight departed St. Thomas with 207 animals on board. The Flamenco Air Cargo flight out of Puerto Rico, first stopped on Beef Island to pick up 71 Paw BVI rescues. Typically, the BVI animals would have been transported to the USVI by boat for loading onto the flight. But, with the BVI’s borders currently closed due to COVID-19, the coordinators had to arrange for an additional stop.
When we reported on these efforts initially, the fate of the BVI animals was unknown because the BVI tightened up on pandemic protocol right before the departure date. So….Success!
The GoFundMe has surpassed the initial fiscal goal intended to provide these two flights. And that’s okay. There are still 200 animals in St. Thomas, 20-30 in Tortola, 5 in Vieques and 4 on St. John in need of a ticket out of the Caribbean. The organizers are coordinating a THIRD flight in the coming weeks and are just $10,000 short of that goal.
This third flight will put the participating shelters of the BVI, USVI and Puerto Rico in a better place to care for the animals in their charges and continue to take in strays and rescues.
But, the fiscal challenges don’t end there. COVID-19 has presented a whole new set of financial challenges for these shelters in the outlying territories. Tourists have been unable to travel to the territories so volunteer hours have been at an all- time low. An economic hammer to residents have left many pet owners on the islands without the resources to properly care for their animals. Private donors find themselves in a difficult position and unable to give the support they normally would. Restrictions on gatherings have halted annual fundraising efforts.
But, for the shelters, the show must go on. They have lives to take care of! Feeding stations need to be maintained, dogs need walking, litter boxes need changing and the animals in their charges need food and medication. Most importantly, medical bills for spaying and neutering and emergency procedures for rescues are piling up. (I want to take a moment here to give a shout out to Canines, Cats and Critters, the veterinarians based on St. John, Tortola and St. Thomas, for dedicating time and valued resources to readying all of the animals for travel!)
So, in addition to providing a safe exit to new forever homes, funds donated the Humane Societies of St. Thomas and Vieques, the Animal Care Center of St. John and PAW BVI will continue to assist with the day-to-day care of animals in the Caribbean shelters.
While we are talking about the ACC, I want to mention a new bit of news circulating in regards to St. John’s shelter. In 2016, the shelter purchased land in Coral Bay with a donation from a long-time supporter to build a new facility that would give them a larger space to care for more animals. It has been a long four years but they are ready to begin the next phase of this process.
The plans are currently under review by the Department of Parks and Natural Resources and are currently available for public viewing. There is some rezoning that needs to happen in order to begin construction on the new facility. You can take a look at the plans and the petition for the rezoning at change.org.