Hurricane Ian not only left a path of destruction in Florida, but also added homeless or lost pets to animal shelters that were already struggling with being overcapacity.
Manatee County Animal Welfare was one of many shelters across south Florida experiencing a surge in animals post-Ian, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported.
“We started to see almost double the animals coming into our facility on a daily basis,” Sarah Brown, the division chief of Manatee County Animal Services, told the outlet. “While we were already at critical capacity it was even more critical to start to move some of those adoptable animals out to new places.”
That’s when Wings of Rescue stepped in to help, a non-profit organization that takes flight to transport shelter pets. The mission is to move pets from overcrowded and disaster-ridden areas to empty shelters across North America.
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According to the organization’s website, 28 dogs from Manatee County Animal Welfare were put into crates and loaded onto a plane piloted by volunteers Kale Garcia and Angela Keeling on Wednesday.
“We love flying, and we love animals, and we put those two together,” Keeling told Fox 13.
Garcia added that it is “super important” to give the dogs a second chance at life.
The dogs transported out of Manatee County were up for adoption before the hurricane hit and were chosen to break out of the shelter in order to make room for animals displaced by Ian. By freeing up kennels, the shelter can hold onto incoming pets longer than usual in hopes of reuniting them with their owners.
Manatee County Animal Welfare added it is scanning incoming pets for microchips and posting photos online to make others aware of the animals coming in.
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The pups on the Wings of Rescue flight were heading to New York, Vermont and Maryland in hopes of finding their forever families.
As of Monday, the rescue shared it has flown 65,284 shelter pets to forever homes over its 10 years in operation.
“Kindness still really does exist, and it’s so nice to see these people coming out to help pets that are displaced, and these homeless pets find a second chance at a forever home,” Brown told Fox 13. “It’s really been an emotional experience for us today, and we are grateful.”
Many other animal rescues, including Big Dog Ranch Rescue and the SPCA of Florida, have also taken in animals from the Manatee County shelters following Ian.
Manatee County Animal Welfare said there are still 100 cats, 125 dogs and one bird at the building ready for adoption.