After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, one animal rescue group put out a plea for a miracle. All Sato Rescue needed to fly nearly 200 dogs and cats off the storm-ravaged island to rescuers in New England.
All Sato Rescue routinely flies dogs and cats on commercial flights from Puerto Rico to shelters in New England, where rescued pets are in great demand by adopters.
But after the hurricane, All Sato Rescue couldn’t get the animals out. Flights to and from the island were limited. The group knew they had to act fast; the conditions in Puerto Rico were deteriorating.
Twig Mowatt, from All Sato Rescue, recalls the terrifying situation: “Their rescuers were all without power, refrigeration, air conditioning, communication, water, in many cases. Getting food, diesel and gasoline was an issue.”
Mowatt thought it was going to be mission impossible to get the animals off the island quickly. “I had no idea how you’d find a charter plane… let alone pay for one… let alone get all our shelter partners on board and reach out to the rescuers in the field.”
But soon after Mowatt put out the request, dozens of groups started mobilizing to aid in the rescue.
Wings of Rescue worked with Mission Miracle K9 to successfully secure a plane and a pilot then worked out the logistics. Shelters and rescuers in New England volunteered to take in animals. A miracle was in the works. The plan was a go, but there was a slight hitch: A $74,000 jet fuel bill. How was a nonprofit rescue group going pay such a large tab?
All Sato Rescue posted an online fundraiser pleading for donations. Many individual donors and rescue groups helped to raise money for the fuel costs. I Love My Dog and 4 Paws Farms gave $25,000 toward the cause.
“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with our I Love My Dog community of over 5 million dog lovers, along with the support from our friends at 4 Paws Farm to help donate to this incredible mission,” David Abbott, Founder, and CEO of I Love My Dog, proudly stated.
The money was raised in days! What once seemed like mission impossible soon became mission possible! The flight finally had what was necessary to take-off!
Rescue volunteers brought the animals to the airport in San Juan.
When the plane arrived 194 animals were loaded on board, ready for their journey to New England.
Several hours later, the plane touched down in Worcester, MA. More than a half dozen very excited shelters and rescue groups waited to help unload and pick up the animals.
The video below, taken by Mission Miracle K9, shows the exciting moments when the plane arrived.
Mowatt burst into happy tears. “I’m ecstatic, totally overwhelmed by the response from shelters, supporters, and adopters alike.”
The animals are now with these wonderful groups and are up for adoption:
Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, Buddy Dog Humane Society, Cape Ann Animal Aid, Coastal Humane Society, Humane Society for Greater Nashua, Humane Society Waterville Area and Sterling Animal Shelter.
The first day the dogs and cats were up for adoption at the Sterling Animal Shelter, a line of potential adopters’ cars flooded into the parking lot.
A volunteer made this video showing how excited everyone was. All Sato Rescue is thrilled so many people came together to help these animals. The group will continue to fundraise so more animals can be flown to New England.
“Just knowing that these animals have rosy futures ahead of them is reason enough to keep going,” Mowatt said. “Everyone on the island is so grateful. To know that they are on the way to the happy lives they deserve makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
The Humane Society of the United States also assisted All Sato Rescue by flying animals off the island on other flights. In fact, the HSUS delivered more than 143,000 pounds of humanitarian and animal aid. It also distributed food, water, and other essentials to pets and their humans, provided veterinary care to hundreds of animals from cats and dogs to horses and goats, and transported over 1,500 animals off the island to more than 50 shelters and rescues across the country.
Rescue groups working together is what’s saving lives! Thank you to ALL the amazing volunteers, for giving these animals the second chance they deserve!
Contributed by: Mary Schwager, aka, WatchdogMary , a TV and print journalist that proudly watchdogs for animals. She’s honored to have won 14 Emmy, 7 Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards for investigative reporting & writing.