The white van with the team from Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico pulled up to the Adoption Center at North Shore Animal League America’s Port Washington, NY campus on a sunny Friday afternoon. The long journey for these weary felines, by land and air from Puerto Rico, was almost over. What these young cats didn’t know, however, was that they’d be happily embarking again soon on another sort of journey that would take them into responsible, loving homes.
“Today we are so excited because, with the 13 cats that arrived here, we have rescued 200 felines together with Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico and helped them all start new lives,” said Sylvia Ottaka, Senior Director of Rescue and Community Outreach. “This is a very important rescue for us and we’re super excited and proud to be doing this with their amazing organization.”
The young cats were unloaded quickly by the volunteers of Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico and our Rescue Team and brought into Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center. They were settled in a quiet holding area with fresh water and food so they could begin to relax and acclimate to their new surroundings.
There are an estimated one million stray cats and 500,000 abandoned dogs on the island according to the Humane Society of Puerto Rico. The problem has only worsened since Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, earthquakes, and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are abandoning more pets.
“Two years ago, I started a new rescue called Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico because I was in touch with 10 women on the island who were struggling to save some of the cats and dogs they cared for on the streets,” said Andrea Herrick, founder, who has been rescuing animals on Puerto Rico since 2011 and lives on Long Island. “I told them that we’d help raise the money for resources over there and then we’d bring the animals here so we could find them amazing families.”
Humane relocation is not anything new for Animal League America. During the 1990s, our organization pioneered the idea of humane relocation working with overcrowded shelters in the South and moving animals scheduled for euthanasia to the Northeast. The concept was then expanded internationally and, in 2016, the International Rescue Program saved 346 dogs from the Cayman Islands to Moscow. Along the way, we found that to make humane relocation really work you must collaborate with people from organizations who are equally passionate about saving the lives of animals, such as those at Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico.
Since the hurricanes in 2017, Puerto Rico has suffered from so much devastation and so many people and animals have lost their lives. Animal League America has worked with several different organizations on the island. Sylvia believes it’s important for Animal League America to help work to save the lives of animals there. “Two years ago, we started this relationship with Proud Rescuers of Puerto Rico and it’s become such a strong relationship,” declared Sylvia. “We just know that we will continue to work together and we’ll save as many animals as we possibly can from Puerto Rico.”