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Florida Woman Charters Plane To Rescue 300 Animals From Hurricane Maria

Sali Gear, co-owner of Virginia Beach based ‘Island Dog Rescue’, a local nonprofit specializing in saving dogs from the U.S. Virgin Islands, thought she had enough time to plan the largest animal rescue mission she and the charity had ever carried out…

Earlier in the month, after Hurricane Irma had devastated the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, Sali had planned to fly about 20 animals to the continental U.S. each day over a week.

Credit: The Virginian-Pilot

However… Hurricane Maria threatened the Caribbean islands, as well as her plans with further devastation.

Gear had just two days to come up with a new plan to get the 300 animals to safety, her farm in Virginia Beach.

Her solution to the threat of Maria? To charter a plane, and quickly.

Credit: The Virginian-Pilot

Gear, along with donors, over just one weekend, managed to pay for a $112,000 charter flight from Miami to rescue cats and dogs – as well as $5,000 for carriers.

Safely on Tuesday, the animals landed in the continental USA!

Gear said she had not slept more than a few hours any night for weeks;

I did it because it had to be done, people have moved heaven and earth to make this happen. This is a sprint, not a marathon, I’m exhausted emotionally, physically – but spiritually, I’m not.

Since Irma devastated the islands two weeks ago, she’s been back to the virgin islands several times. Most vegetation is wiped out, as well as many buildings, leaving animals scrounging for food.

Credit: The Virginian-Pilot

Gear is a part of the St. Croix Humane Society board of directors and works with animal welfare groups on St. Thomas. Usually, she only moves or two animals at a time.

As the dogs arrived in Norfolk, Florida, around 2 am on Tuesday, a bright orange notice on each carrier read, “I survived Hurricane Irma. I am still nervous. Please be cautious with me.”

Credit: The Virginian-Pilot

They all seem happy, Island dogs are like that. I have such a big passion for dogs, I love them so much, and we as people have to help them.

– Sali Gear