Even before Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, the island was home to thousands of homeless dogs and cats. Since 2015, Randolph, MA-based Paws4Survival has been working to rescue many of those pets, place them in local foster homes for extensive vetting, and transport them to Massachusetts and New York to be adopted.
As one could imagine, the organization’s efforts have been dramatically impacted by Maria, which effectively destroyed the island’s power grid. “We have 50 cats and dogs in Puerto Rico now that are without food and water,” says Paws4Survival President Nicole DiPaolo. “Our foster homes have no electricity or running water and barely any means to care for the animals. All homes with fences have been decimated. We have shipped 1,100 lbs. of supplies via Amerijet this week. Each week we will send another shipping container. Fosters cannot travel to the vet or stores, as gas lines are eight hours long and only cash is accepted.”
“Our rescue efforts are at a halt,” DiPaolo says. “There is an embargo on animals flying off the island, so we cannot fly dogs out, resulting in higher boarding expenses. Our foster homes lost fences, so dogs and cats are now in crates and the dogs are unable to go outside unless on leashed walks. Food and water need to be shipped in, with only one airline flying supplies at a commercial rate of $749 per week for 1,100 lbs. of supplies. We are unable to rescue additional animals without added boarding fees, and have no end in sight.
“The dire situation gets worse for our foster families as the days go on. We will use the grant money to rescue dogs that survived Hurricane Maria and place them in boarding, fix our foster homes’ fences so the dogs are not contained in crates but back in yards, and to offset the costs of shipping food and supplies until business resumes in Puerto Rico. Just today, PetSmart opened for one hour and then closed to the public. Costco was open for five hours, but dog food ran out.”