With animal shelters in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico facing overcrowding and cargo planes not departing frequently due to the coronavirus pandemic, several dogs were set to be euthanized Friday.
For example, St. Thomas Humane Society reports they are housing 356 animals when their facility was designed to house 70.
"[The shelters are at four times], underfunded, and understaffed; along with being restricted from commercial cargo flights since the start of COVID," said ACC St. John Animal Care Center spokeswoman Carley Long.
According to Big Dog Ranch Rescue spokesman Chase Scott, the Loxahatchee Goves shelter organized an alliance of organizations and businesses to airlift 116 cats and dogs to clear several shelters in the Caribbean.
“Getting our animals to a stateside animal welfare agency is the second chance they need.”
Big Dog Ranch Rescue, who recently took in several hundred dogs from Puerto Rico, will let other shelters take in the majority of the animals. Those shelters are located in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia, Orlando, Missouri, and Broward County.
"[We will be taking] a few of the dogs [from this flight]. We are taking all Puerto Rico dogs from the Sept. 9 flight," said Lauree Simmons, president and founder of Big Dog Ranch Rescue.
The group has three rescue missions planned. The first flight landed at the Treasure Coast International Airport in Fort Pierce about 5:30 p.m. Friday and unloaded at the APP Jet Center.
"Although this rescue effort is different than our typical missions, we had no choice but to step up," said Weedo Boats CEO Tara Lordi. "When Big Dog Ranch reached out to us, we knew we had to help. Together with Big Dog Ranch, Weedoo Boats chartered a private cargo plane to transport more than 150 animals scheduled for euthanasia this weekend. The animals are stranded for several reasons, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Nick Barson who organized the flights, said the plane made five stops in San Juan, Peurto Rico; Vieques, Peurto Rico; St. Thomas; Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and finally Fort Pierce.
Over 116 animals being rescued from overcrowded shelters in the Caribbean set to land in Ft. Pierce around 5:30 p.m. tonight. Thanks to organizations including @BDRRescue and Weedo.@WPTV— T.A. Walker (@timallanwalker) August 28, 2020
"Euthanasia [at the shelters] should have started two weeks ago because there are dogs literally stacked up on top of each other in the hallways at the St. Thomas Humane Society," said Long.
"Together with Big Dog Ranch, Weedoo Boats chartered a private cargo plane to transport more than 150 animals scheduled for euthanasia this weekend," said Lordi. "The animals are stranded for several reasons, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Activists on the island raised awareness [of] the situation earlier this week."