(TNS) — Animals affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico are getting a little help from Naples.
The Humane Society of the United States and Wings of Rescue, a California-based nonprofit organization that rescues pets from overcrowded shelters, loaded a jet at the Naples Jet Center with about 3,700 pounds of medical supplies to take to Vieques, an island municipality off Puerto Rico's eastern coast.
The jet, which was flown in from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, was scheduled to return to Broward County on Thursday evening and land on the island Friday morning.
The Humane Society is taking equine medical supplies and equipment for the free-roaming horses of the Vieques countryside, as well as vaccinations and spray treatments. Volunteers of the organization will spend a week treating the island's horses.
Marco Patriots, a local group that has provided relief efforts this hurricane season, also gathered supplies for humanitarian aid and donated boxes of sanitary wipes, shoes, clothes, diapers, toilet paper, paper towels and gallons of water.
"A lot of people in Vieques lost their homes," said Kari Pereira, a senior wildlife field manager for the Humane Society. "Their resources have changed, so the animals' resources have changed.
"We're hoping to provide tools to help people take care of themselves and their animals with this trip," said Pereira, who has done relief efforts in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Naples Jet Center staff loaded up hundreds of boxes of supplies for Vieques’ animals and humans.
The heaviest boxes to load were those full of hundreds of clanging horseshoes. The island doesn't have farriers or veterinarians for horses, according to Pereira.
There has been help for the island’s adoptable dogs and cats, thousands of which have been flown to U.S. shelters. The Humane Society also has started pop-up clinics and spay-and-neuter campaigns throughout Puerto Rico, which already had a problem with stray dogs before the hurricane made the problem worse.
This trip will be dedicated to some of the 2,000 to 3,000 horses Pereira estimates live on Vieques.
"Most of the animals are pretty resilient, as they always are," Pereira said. "The biggest issues we're seeing are infectious diseases, which will get worse, and wounds suffered because of the hurricane."
On the return trip, more than 100 adoptable pets will be flown to Morristown, New Jersey.
Ric Browde, president of Wings of Rescue, said the organization usually takes pets from overcrowded shelters and places them in others where there is plenty of kennel space.
In emergencies, the organization works with organizations such as the Humane Society to give relief and, sometimes, reunite pets with the humans they lost during natural disasters.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” Browde said. “Every time you shut the door on a plane, you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing you’re saving a bunch of pets. But you also think about the ones you left behind.”
Browde estimated the organization has flown more than 10,000 pets this year. About 2,000 to 3,000 of those were rescued from Puerto Rico, he said.
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