Animal shelters in the Caribbean are reaching "four times their capacity" and are in need of help, according to The ACC of St. John

By Kelli Bender
August 28, 2020 04:32 PM
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Credit: Anne Bequette Photography, https://www.stjcreative.com/

The Animal Care Center (ACC) of St. John is working to help the "silent victims" "across the Caribbean" that are deeply affected by the halt in the stateside transportation of animals due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to a release from The Animal Care Center of St. John, Caribbean animal shelters are "understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded," with some now at "four times their capacity," and are greatly feeling the effects of restrictions put in place because of the pandemic. Caribbean shelters are now reaching the point where they may have to euthanize animals they worked hard to save.

"Since the start of COVID-19, animals have been restricted from all commercial cargo flights, as these flights severely diminished in frequency," the release continues, this restriction has cut off the overcrowded shelters' ability to send adoptable pets to interested families and rescues in the United States. Commercial transports, where volunteers take an adoptable pet back with them on a plane or cruise ship, have also all but disappeared due to COVID-19.

"Without the usual arrival of cruise ships and flights of tourists, hundreds of thousands of potential patrons have disappeared," the release reads. "And for those who have visited, the shelters can’t even accommodate them for normal fundraising efforts and shelter tours due to social distancing."

Credit: Anne Bequette Photography, https://www.stjcreative.com/

The ACC of St. John is working to raise $60,000 to charter a private cargo flight through Flamenco Cargo that would transport nearly 300 animals from its shelter and from St. Thomas Humane Society and Off The Rocks Rescue in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques Humane Society in Puerto Rico, and PAW BVI in the British Virgin Islands. This would free up space in these crowded shelters and prevent euthanizations. Freeing up space soon is especially crucial as the Caribbean enters hurricane season. The animals would be flown to the United States and placed "in various stateside shelters such as Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Florida and Stray Rescue St. Louis in Missouri."

"Getting our animals to a stateside animal welfare agency is the second chance they need," wrote Amanda Kennedy, director of shelter operations at St. Thomas Humane Society. Her shelter is currently housing 356 animals, even though it was only designed to house 70 pets.

To help shelters like Kennedy's get out of this situation without euthanizing any animals, The ACC of St. John has started a GoFundMe to raise the money needed to charter the life-saving cargo flight.

"Imagine being stuck on an island with no way off but a rescue flight that may never come—that's exactly what these animals face," says Anne Bequette, spokesperson and documentarian for The ACC of St. John. "We’re starting with a goal of $60,000 to get these animals to stateside safety; however, these funds will only cover the flights alone. Even more fundraising will be needed to supply basic necessities such as medicine, shelter staff, space and animal food."

To donate to this effort, visit The ACC of St John's GoFundMe.