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“Adopt, don’t shop,” is a phrase animal lovers and advocates often hear and attempt to ingrain in those looking for a new companion, but during times of disaster, the sentiment can be dire.
As earthquakes continue to wreak havoc on Puerto Rico, Sali Gear, founder of Island Dog Rescue in Virginia Beach, has evacuated close to 40 dogs from the island.
And with the support of partners like Yorktown-based, Village Dog Resource, to foster and rehome the dogs once they land in the continental U.S., Gear said she plans to do it again for over 50 more dogs in the coming weeks.
“I need a place to put dogs so the partnership is really a win-win,” she said. “My niche is transportation, selecting, and vetting dogs, they know they’re getting dogs with solid medical treatment.”
Village Dog Resource is advertising at least nine of the pups that are available for adoption but there are others who after surviving back-to-back natural disasters and travel abroad, just aren’t ready yet.
Julia Kay operates the foster program and described “Simon,” who she said was already shy but “didn’t handle the transport very well.”
“He will need a little time to decompress before we can see his true personality…he’s scared but sweet,” she said.
Raised in St. Croix, Gear started Island Dog Rescue as an extension of her life-long work with the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center.
The initiative would soon expand in 2017 when the Virgin Islands were hit by Hurricanes Irma and then Maria, and Gear along with volunteers and donors garnered more than $100,000 to charter a plane to evacuate nearly 300 animals at once from St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John.
Since Dec. 28, earthquakes and aftershocks up to a magnitude 6.4 have continued to shake the ground in Puerto Rico with the most recent measuring a magnitude 4.5 on Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“A message from one of my rescuers…her voice was cracking and broken and you hear her say ‘we’re scared, we’re stressed, I don’t know what I would do if I had to leave my home and my dog,'” Gear said. “We’re helping people rehome their dogs that they can’t take care of.”
Kay said Village Dog Resource is not only looking for adopters but as more animal refugees come in, the organization is also looking for volunteers who can foster and transport pets, contingent on a satisfactory home visit, veterinary “background check,” and application.
“All adoptions come with a built-in week-long trial period at your home. We never want anyone keeping a dog ‘just because,’ we aim for perfection,” according to the organization’s website.
Learn more about adopting a refugee dog or how you can help support them through Village Dog Resource by clicking here.