Helping the animals of Puerto Rico
Friday, April 13, 2018
Last year, Puerto Rico was hit with two of the largest hurricanes in history within two weeks of each other — Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6 and Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20. As a native New Yorker living in Puerto Rico, I must admit, Hurricane Maria felt like another 9/11 to me. The kind of tragedy where you go to bed in one life and wake up in another.
After Maria passed is when the real pain set in. Puerto Rico was totally without power, communications and internet. Necessities like food, water, ice, cash and gas became almost impossible to come by.
Few stores even opened back up. The ones that did only took cash. And because the power was down, the entire banking system was down. As such, nobody could get cash. This was the catch 22 in which most of us found ourselves.
From what I've read of the Great Depression, the first few weeks of life after Hurricane Maria was very reminiscent of that. Because of the bedlam in the streets, the governor of Puerto Rico implemented a 6 p.m. curfew on the island. It was mandatory that citizens were home by 6 p.m. The panic for necessities went on for weeks.
Feeling challenged to even get food and water, I'd realized this is how stray animals living on the street feel every single day of their lives. Every day is a struggle for survival. People can finally see what it's like to live like an animal.
There are more than 1 million stray cats in Puerto Rico.
As a human dad to seven dogs and very involved with animal rescue, I've always felt a kinship with animals. But, as a result of experiencing their daily struggles, my connection to them is now even stronger.
There are more than 500,000 stray dogs in Puerto Rico and more than 1 million stray cats. It's difficult to imagine what they endured with Hurricane Maria's 175 mph winds for eight straight hours. The stray animal epidemic in Puerto Rico was heartbreaking long before Irma and Maria, but the hurricanes aggravated and exacerbated the problem in a big way.
About 300,000 people left Puerto Rico after Maria. Many of them left their animals behind. To complicate matters even further, a federal ban not allowing animal over 20 pounds on planes caused an additional 2,000 pets to be left behind and abandoned.
On Dec. 30, 2017, we got a call about a dog that had been hit by a car and left for dead in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. When we arrived at the scene, it was hard to believe this dog was still alive. I've never seen a dog in that much pain before. Yet still, through fear alone, he fought us off for two hours before we finally rescued him and brought him to Veterinaria 24/7 in Pinero, Puerto Rico.
Despite his injuries, Levi fought us off for two hours before we finally rescued him.
Levi is paralyzed. He'll never walk again. Sadly, strays getting hit by cars in Puerto Rico is not an uncommon occurrence.
About two weeks after Levi was hit by a car, I put a video message out to help address this problem in Puerto Rico called "Drive with Compassion."
Four of my seven dogs are strays right off the streets in Puerto Rico. I can say with complete confidence and conviction, stray animals make great pets like any other animals would.
If you're interested in helping the animals in Puerto Rico, here are some great organizations on the front lines: All Sato Rescue, Alianza Pro Rescate Animales, Yes We Can-ine, Samas Boarding for Dogs, Rabito Kontento, The Humane Society of Puerto Rico, PrAnimals.org, Animalitos de Dios PR and Brownie Blondie Foundation by Marjorie Andino.
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