Virginia-Based Rescue Saves Over 300 Virgin Island Pets Affected by Hurricanes


The Virgin Islands have taken hit after hit with Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A Virginia-based rescue is doing what it can to bring the many displaced island animals to safety.

Sali Gear is the co-founder of Island Dog Rescue, based in Virginia Beach. She grew up in the Virgin Islands, and watched as Hurricanes Irma and Maria plowed toward the land she loved so much. She couldn’t stand the thought of the island’s many animals being lost or killed, and devised a plan to evacuate all pets from all three of the U.S. Virgin Islands–St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas– after she saw the devastation from Irma.

But then Maria barreled right after, and her plans to fly 20 animals a day, every day for a week to the United States had to take a backseat as it was not safe to spread the rescues out. So Gear chartered a private jet to get all the animals out all at once, and fly them back to Norfolk, Virginia, where her rescue is based. The plan was to get them back and let them recover on her farm or with volunteer rescue groups around the nation.

She offered this service free of charge to pet owners, and she also made sure to get all the animals that had been in shelters or were abandoned. She let shelters know ahead of time, as she watched Irma form and move toward them, letting them know even just a bit of peace in the storm.

She evacuated over 300 dogs and cats that had all been gathered on St. Thomas. She’d arranged for boats to pick them up from the other two islands, and she used the rescue’s Facebook page to coordinate the massive rescue evacuation plan. She was able to charter the jet using $112,00 of donations and her own personal funds, and she made provisions for animals to be sheltered here in the states or adopted into new families if needed.

As many now know, the islands were decimated, and she literally saved hundreds of furry family members from God only knows what had they been left on the island. Electricity is not even expected to be back for months, and several people died. Gear says she knows this was a gargantuan project, and she’s glad she could do it, but the reality is, she wished it wasn’t as much a necessity.

She is a member of the St. Croix Humane Society, and advocates for responsibility for pets, as well as responsible breeding.

When she heard word of what happened to the animal shelter on the St. Croix, she was shocked. The manager told her the puppy and cat room were completely gone, and animals that had been there would have surely died. She rescued them just in time.

Gear says many dog and cat victims from the hurricanes of recent are still in need of homes, and wants people to look at shelters to find new furry family members.

I am beyond impressed with the massive effort and expense that went into saving those animals, and people like Gear restore my faith in humanity. If you’d like to donate to help her continue helping animals, you can do so here. If you’d like to help restore the island shelter–which is the only place that homeless and/or abandoned dogs have–you can donate to Gear’s fundraiser directly as well.

Lori Ennis

Lori Ennis is a wife, mama and friend to all animals. A self-confessed “Hot Mess,” she lives wherever the Marine Corps takes her husband. Currently, that’s Maryland with her very spoiled Labrador Retriever-mix rescue pups and a ton of saltwater fish just tanking around. Lori’s family has fostered dogs for years, mostly Golden Retrievers, and knows no home is complete without an animal buddy (or seven)!


Watch the video: Local American Red Cross volunteer back from weeks in Virgin Islands after hurricanes


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