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Hundreds of Animals Face Death In The Caribbean

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COVID-19's Tragic Impact on Animal Shelters Across the Caribbean

With the impacts of COVID-19 and a prevailing hurricane season, silent victims have arisen across the Caribbean as stateside transportation for animals has halted. Understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded with four times their capacity, Caribbean animal shelters must now make the decision to end the lives of the animals they work so 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 Animal Care Center (ACC) of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is leading the efforts to fundraise $60,000 for lifesaving private cargo rescue flights through Flamenco Cargo, which will save nearly 300 animals from its shelter, along with those 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. 

Logistics are already in place to transport the animals to various stateside shelters such as Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Florida and Stray Rescue St. Louis in Missouri. Ryan Moore, shelter manager of The ACC of St. John, explained how stateside partnerships grew after record-breaking Hurricanes Irma and Maria, of which the Islands have still not fully rebounded.

"Now that we work with many wonderful stateside rescues, the cost of transporting these animals falls on the ACC. Just doing one basic transport of a dog on a commercial flight is at least $200; if they fly cargo, that amount is easily tripled for one animal," says Moore.

Cargo flights usually save thousands of animals each year, yet Vieques Humane Society has reported that only a single transport has occurred in the last six months. 

“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, in an urgent plea for help as her shelter is currently housing 356 animals, when it was only designed to house 70 animals.

Commercial transports are also way down, as COVID-19 has devastated tourism, the Island's largest revenue stream. Without the usual arrival of cruise ships and flights of tourists, hundreds of thousands of potential patrons have disappeared. And for those who have visited, the shelters can’t even accommodate them for normal fundraising efforts and shelter tours due to social distancing. 

The dip in tourism has also left thousands of Island residents jobless and financially insecure. As a result, local Islanders are also seeking assistance from the shelters to supply pet food, veterinary services, etc. 

“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.” 

Fundraising efforts are being centralized at through this link and monitored by The ACC of St. John.


Carly Long
Malvern, PA
Animal Care Center of St. John, Inc.

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