In our latest maneuver of this type, The HSUS is helping engineer, with some incredible partners, the transport of more than 200 dogs in need from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States. Next week, two planes will depart from Puerto Rico – one set to land in Florida, the other in North Carolina – and they’ll have a lot of senior citizens on board, ready to take a nap in a new home.
The transport has been dubbed “Operation Grey Muzzle” because of the large number of older dogs on board. The coalition, which includes The HSUS, Wings of Rescue, The Sato Project, the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team, Grace Park Animal Hospital of North Carolina, The Grey Muzzle Organization, Greater Good, the Humane Society of Broward County, and the Humane Society of Charlotte, was determined to transport the animals, who had been long-term residents of the Santuario de Animales San Francisco de Asís, a Puerto Rican animal welfare operation. The sanctuary is in desperate need of repair and renovation, and leaders of the group cannot take on that project without relieving the sanctuary of the burden of care for some of the animals, and freeing up space for refurbishing.
We also worked with other shelters, including Villa Michelle in Mayaguez, to move additional animals out of the Commonwealth. The facility sits atop a mountain and has a beautiful view but very little foot traffic, so there is only a very remote chance that animals waiting there will find a loving home in the community.
HSUS Emergency Placement Partners are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to take the senior dogs into their programs. Senior dogs have their own special attributes, since many were once in loving homes and therefore require little training or time to adjust. Perhaps it is the grey muzzles that we all find so alluring. They have a story to tell and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend their remaining years on the couch or in a favorite chair. (I adopted my Lily as a senior pet, because I knew others might not be interested in her as she’s not a puppy.)
I want to be clear, we cannot transport away the pet overpopulation in Puerto Rico. Operation Grey Muzzle is only one element in a matrix of programs that constitute the HSUS Humane Puerto Rico initiative. “It is not just about transfer, it is about transformation,” says Inga Fricke, HSUS Director of Pet Retention Programs and a member of the Humane State team. Our team will continue to work the multi-pronged approach of helping the animals while helping the people of Puerto Rico address pet overpopulation. The transport on Wednesday will also raise awareness about the wonderful pets of Puerto Rico.
Here are some other victories and accomplishment for the animals of Puerto Rico through the HSUS Humane State Program:
Humane education: The program has trained 2,000 teachers, social workers, and directors in humane education, and provided educational materials for younger children in every K-6 public school classroom (500,000 students).
Law enforcement: We signed an executive order with the governor of Puerto Rico in 2015, calling for the well-being and protection of animals. This order calls for all branches of government, including municipalities, to provide humane education training and to work to develop a more humane island in conjunction with The HSUS. The Humane State Team has trained 2,050 prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials on animal cruelty issues.
Shelter and rescue: Experts from The HSUS have provided training to shelter/rescue workers in compassion fatigue, volunteer engagement, social media, working with law enforcement, and creating humane communities. We have also provided computers/printers/software to partner shelters and trained them in standardizing their reporting methods and in better ways to track euthanasia rates. We have and continue to provide grants and funding for spay/neuter/vaccine efforts, and equipment for handling animals, to shelters on the island.
The Sister Shelter Project: We have paired 11 stateside shelters with nine shelters in Puerto Rico as part of a three-year mentorship program created in partnership with Maddie’s Fund. The program provides resources, support, and travel to partner shelters stateside, and equipment, shelter medicine support, vaccines, and capital repairs to the Puerto Rico shelters.
Our Humane Puerto Rico Program is now embedded in the Commonwealth, and it has so many dimensions. I’m most excited to see Operation Grey Muzzle as its latest, endearing feature, and am especially grateful for our partners and for future adopters on the mainland.