Puerto Rico’s governor to sign executive order for massive on-the-ground plan to save animals

By on September 25, 2017 with 18 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The situation in Puerto Rico is so dire that Commonwealth and federal authorities have still been unable to do a thorough damage assessment, even though it’s been five days since the hurricane enveloped the island and flooded or flattened so much of it. Cell phone towers were destroyed or rendered inoperative. The electrical grid failed, and the entire island went dark (service is slowly being restored but it may be months before it is restored islandwide). There are massive roadway problems with flooding, downed trees, and debris hampering basic transportation. There are food, water, and gas shortages, and by all preliminary indications, it’s a crisis situation of immense proportions, in a political jurisdiction already saddled with enormous debt and an array of other hardships.

Three years ago, The HSUS and Humane Society International (HSI) launched our Humane Puerto Rico program, to lift animal welfare on the main island and on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. For too long, the animal welfare movement had failed to concentrate sufficient resources, and animal welfare had become an everyday crisis there. Some shelters were euthanizing more than 95 percent of the animals coming in. Since we launched our program – led by Humane State Senior Director Tara Loller and Puerto Rico Director Yolanda Alvarez — we’ve been working with all of the animal shelters on the island, training law enforcement, conducting humane education, strengthening animal welfare laws, contracepting free-roaming horse populations, and much more. Earlier this year, we launched our Sister Shelter Project with Maddie’s Fund and 12 mainland shelters that have agreed to partner with Puerto Rican sister organizations. Just a month ago, we conducted a transport of 200 dogs, in a project dubbed “Operation Grey Muzzle,” to help older dogs get off the island and into new, loving homes on the mainland (many of them might not have survived the storm, so it was very timely that we got them out of there).

Given our deep ties in the Commonwealth, it was logical for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares to shape an executive order with The HSUS and HSI for assistance with the care, transport, placement, and veterinary health of animals there. We are expecting him to sign it any moment.

We’ve pledged to move shelter dogs and cats off the island during this crisis and to deliver them to the mainland to ready them for adoption for our 400 or so Emergency Placement Partners, led by St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Shelter, a long-time HSUS partner that has agreed to serve as a hub for animals coming out of Puerto Rico. We’ll be working hand in hand on the transports with two extraordinary and long-standing partners – GreaterGood.org and Wings of Rescue. This troika of organizations collaborated in Texas and Florida and together we’ve rescued and moved more than 1,900 animals already. The situation in Puerto Rico will be an even greater challenge, especially with the immense logistical considerations and the breakdown in transportation, energy, water, and agricultural modalities in the Commonwealth.

Today, we sent a plane – one we usually commandeer for animal transport – loaded with supplies for people. We know there is great suffering, and we want to deliver some reprieve. Also, once people are able to meet life’s necessities and their personal circumstances are stabilized, they will be in a stronger position to provide care to animals in their lives and in their communities. Indeed, The HSUS cannot do this alone, and we need all hands on deck, led by caring individuals, especially our partners in human and animal welfare. In a disaster response, federal authorities are tasked with the monumental job of addressing critical human concerns, and in this case, where the needs are so great, we are prepared to take their lead.

Along with our supply warehouse partner in Florida, the Humane Society of Broward County, we’ll continue to support these relief efforts as we prepare to send key staff to Vieques to assess the condition of the island’s horse population, which, according to anecdotal accounts, has suffered major casualties. We have a Spanish-speaking assessment team on standby, that, when appropriate, will work with our shelter partners and the veterinary community to identify the greatest needs across the island, and we’ll be sending in people and resources that are proportional to the needs. We expect those needs to be great. For instance, yesterday we learned that there are more than 850 horses at a racing track in San Juan who are facing severe challenges as well; we have opened up discussions with The Jockey Club and the United States Equestrian Federation to see if a plan to help the horses can be developed.

In all, the nation and The HSUS are facing a crisis of epic proportions for people and animals. We cannot do this without you and without the support of the American people.

Puerto Rico is part of the United States. We will double down on our work there to help them through this great crisis, with our full focus, energy, and resolve. This was a 100-year storm, and there’s been so much loss. And to be sure, there is hardship ahead. If there’s ever been a time for the nation to rush in to help Puerto Rico, that time is now.

P.S. Please donate to our Disaster Relief Fund to support our lifesaving work for this and other disasters.

Donate to the Disaster Relief Fund »

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Equine, Humane Society International

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  1. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    This is another reason that I contribute monthly to the HSUS. Thank you so much for helping the needy animals in Puerto Rico and all the others impacted by the recent hurricanes.

  2. Anna Betters says:

    Please help these animals!!!

  3. Family Vazquez says:

    Are you shipping family pets to the mainland for adoption? How can people get their pets back. How long will you hold them before shipping them off?

  4. Anna Cooke says:

    Wayne, any chance HSUS and HSI are working with The Sato Project in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico – the site of Dead Dog Beach?

  5. Marla Archer says:

    I’m grateful for any help you give the dogs. I especially like the “operation grey muzzzle” project. I’m extremely disappointed though I don’t see anything about spay and neutering, except the mention of contraception of horses. In three years you’ve flown out 1900 animals but in those three years because of not spaying and neutering hundreds of thousands of dogs have been born. 1900 animals are probably born there everyday. What you are doing is great and should be done. Along with it though and most important is to spay and neuter. I’m amazed you aren’t promoting, getting the government to comply with the importance of spay and neuter and setting up programs for it. The animal welfare movement you mentioned was run by the government, the government toke the money allotted for the movement and did nothing to help the animals. Your organization has the clout to do something, you’re putting a drop in the bucket when you have ability to fill the bucket. Tourism is down because it hurts people to see streets full of sick, injured and starving dogs. Puerto Rica’s solution is kill them even when it’s been proven the cost of rounding them up, housing them and killing them cost more than what spay and neuter would. Your organization is helping a few (which is wonderful) but you could stop the horriable suffering of hundreds of thousands too. In three years the ones that have suffered and died on the streets and beaches and the ones they’ve killed (use to be and still may be electrocution) is probably close to a million. I’m truly sad you don’t understand the importance of spay and neuter in Puerto Rico.

    • Patrice says:

      That is the exact reason why I would never go back there after being there once seeing all the suffering dogs made my vacation just miserable, They should be ashamed of themselves they way the animals are treated there. Especially the dogs just disgusting.. Every dog should be taken off that island until they learn the right way of doing things!

      • Gina says:

        Yes, I agree my visit was three years ago. I was so sadden by all the street dogs running around hungry and fending for themselves it was very disturbing to see how this county did nothing to help these poor souls! I wanted to leave the county do to feeling so helpless for these animals …. although I did uncounter some good people who had a mission to make things better, it still was not enough. My heart Hurt so much that when I went back to the states I ended up volunteering at rescues and doing fostering.

      • Esther Velez says:

        Well, I have seen the horrendous inhumane conditions of animals in the USA. Puppy mills, animal farms, and many more. If you are from there maybe you want to relocate to another country.

      • Stephanie says:

        The same here. If I had known about the animals suffering in Puerto Rico, I never would have gone there on vacation. Many dogs ran up to us on the beach begging for our help. I am so ashamed I vacationed there. It was just heartbreaking💔 Sadly, many Spanish-speaking areas are the same as they think an animal loses his masculinity if he is neutered. People need to be educated about this.

    • Nicole Planchon says:

      Are you rescuing them to euthanize them or are you truly rescuing them to care for them and ensure their safe adoption ?

    • vlheraty says:

      PR has never had any animal services. Ever. No shelters, no humane groups to advocate for them. Nothing. It still doesn’t.

      This effort is laudable but I wish it hadn’t taken a hurricane to initiate it. Since there are no on the ground agencies I wonder how/who will handle these efforts and what those efforts willl be.

    • Lynn Duffy says:

      check out spay/neuter week of DEC 3 – 9th on vieques, cooperative effort HSUS, HSI, Vieques Humane society…aiming for 700 surgeries for the week!

  6. Jacqueline Maldonado says:

    I am desperate to send a care package for a friend of mine for his cats in Vega Baja. As well as the shelter dogs and cats where he volunteers. He is need of flea and tick medicine and food for the cats and dogs and I can’t seem to find a way to get it to him.

    Is there any way that he can go somewhere to get that until we can send packages.

  7. Barbara Jantzen says:

    Thank you so much Humane Society U.S. for stepping up to the plate and being in the forefront addressing this dire situation in Puerto Rico as well as other parts of the Caribbean! . Animal lovers and advocates like myself are so very very proud of you and your teams!!! Please not only look for the Pets displaced But Any strays, Any animals for that matter as they are all very important as well.
    As for Dead Dog Beach I read articles on the internet and one article quoted: ” and the New Yorker who started her non-profit to save and rehome the forgotten dogs of Puerto Rico, found no canines left on Dead Dog Beach, leading her to believe all of them washed away during Hurricane Maria.
    She says:
    “Once the hugs and tears were over, the first thing we all wanted to do was go to the beach to look for our feral dogs,” Beckles wrote in a Facebook post about the heartbreaking trip. “Sadly, we did not find them and our hearts are heavy with the reality upon seeing the utter devastation at the beach — they did not survive.”

    I was not aware the Puerto Rico had a such a place where unwanted pets were left to fend for themselves. She also stated that she found only 3 little dogs that hotel security alerted her to and security said that these little dogs were heard screaming after the storm. Thankfully, She rescued these dogs.
    I hope the future rebuilding of Puerto Rico does not have this dead dog beach anymore and that the beach is renamed and turned into a park where people come with their pets to enjoy as a family. In addition, any homeless animals will be brought to no kill shelters and loving homes found for them all. This has to be done through continuous humane education and awareness.
    Puerto Rico our hearts are with you and the animals of Puerto Rico and throughout the earth!
    Thank you again Humane Society!!

  8. Nery Dornisch says:

    We rescued 6 dogs. I’m desperate to find a safe place for them. We can’t keep them much longer. Please help. We will pay for their rescue. In Trujillo Alto, PR

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