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Last week, Hurricane Ian, the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the U.S., hit the western coast of Florida, dropped 20 inches of rain, and took out about one-quarter of the state’s power, per The Washington Postopens in a new tab. As of Wednesday the Category 4 storm had killed at least 120 people in Floridaopens in a new tab (the majority of those in Lee County) and five in North Carolina. The damage from this storm remains significant, as it has greatly affected the lives of Florida residents — including the four-legged ones.
Especially in the Fort Meyers and Naples areas, families have reported their pets missing, according to the local paperopens in a new tab, the News-Press. While some pet parents have had happy reunions with their pets, many are still looking.
Humane Society Naplesopens in a new tab told the paper that they prepared for the coming storm by clearing as much space as they could ahead of time. Now, after their building was damaged by Ian, the shelter is sending rescued dogs and cats to safer shelters across the country via chartered flights.
The shelter has been serving as the main hub for all of the pets affected in the Southwest Florida area and continues to make room for more animals.
“The logistics are mind-boggling,” Sarah Baeckler, CEO of Humane Society Naples told the News-Press. “It’s insane. But our team stepped up, and we’re doing it.”
As People opens in a new tab Tuesday, Greater Good Charitiesopens in a new tab started an emergency airlift effort to transport 54 cats and 36 dogs out of the shelters in Naples, Fort Meyers, and the surrounding areas. You can help them hereopens in a new tab. In addition, the News-Press reports, many veterinary offices have closed because of damage, so anyone providing care is in need of help right now.
“This emergency flight of shelter pets from Florida is one of many efforts that Greater Good Charities is doing to help the people and pets impacted by Hurricane Ian,” Liz Baker, CEO of Greater Good Charities, shared in a statement, via People. “We are planning for possible future transports and are also working diligently with partners in affected and surrounding areas to send in pet food, supplies, and humanitarian aid to help the people and pets reeling from this catastrophic disaster.”
Here comes the big question any pet parent — reading this with tears streaming down their face thinking of their own best pals — might be asking right now: How can I help?
We compiled a list of additional organizations that are already doing work to help the cats and dogs affected by Ian. In times like these, the best we can do is donate our time, money, and our energy to those who need us most. And if pet parents know anything, we know how to get stuff done.
Wings of Rescue
Wings of Rescue is an organization leading the most significant disaster relief option for animals: safe, early evacuation. Hundreds of pets from shelters in Hurricane Ian’s predicted path were loaded onto planes and flown to shelters miles away, where they now await adoption. Wings of Rescue relies on donations to charter planes and stock veterinary supplies.
St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center
St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center is committed to providing space for pets experiencing emergency relocations. The center will be caring for a plane full of animals transported from Florida until new homes are found, and they rely on donations to do so. If you’re nearby or in New Jersey, you can also adopt or foster a pet in need; the center is currently waiving adoption fees.
Brandywine Valley SPCA
Brandywine Valley SPCA took in a plane shipment of over 66 relocated pets, including very small kittens. For those based in Pennsylvania, the Brandywine Valley SPCA’s West Chester location is in urgent need of towel and blanket donations at 1212 Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, Pennsylvania.
PAWS Chicago partnered with the Humane Society of Naples, which had to shut down during the storm due to loss of power and a staffing shortage. PAWS brought over 50 cats and dogs back to their Chicago base. They will be returning to Florida to rescue more pets in the coming week.
The American Humane Rescue team is on the ground in Florida responding to animal emergencies, including pets stranded in flood waters. They rely on donations to do their life-saving work.
Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends’ search-and-rescue team has moved over 164 dogs and 197 cats out of Hurricane Ian’s path. They are working to match shelters with open spaces to shelters that are overcrowded or evacuating.
This post will be updated as we receive more information on organizations that are helping with disaster relief.
Hilary Weaver is the senior editor at The Wildest. She has previously been an editor at The Spruce Pets, ELLE, and The Cut. She was a staff writer at Vanity Fair from 2016 to 2019, and her work has been featured in Esquire, Refinery 29, BuzzFeed, Parade, and more. She lives with her herding pups, Georgie and Charlie.
Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.
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