Hurricanes bring 400 dogs, cats to Hampton Roads from U.S. Virgin Islands

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The U.S. Virgin Islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma, and now Hurricane Maria is on the way. Many people have evacuated, but what happens to the animals?

That’s where Island Dog Rescue, based out of Virginia Beach, comes in to help.

Sali Gear, who founded the shelter, coordinated the rescue and she says it wouldn’t have happened if the community didn’t step up. But for her, this is personal. She grew up on the U.S. Virgin Islands and her family lost everything in Hurricane Hugo. So now, she’s helping those who are helpless.

“It’s been very hectic, very chaotic, but it’s totally worth it,” says volunteer Ali Rutherford.

400 cats and dogs descended on a Virginia Beach farm in the middle of the night.

“This is herculean effort to save these animals,” says Gear. “So when I watched Irma build up, I called the shelters ahead of time and said ‘hey I’m here for you.'”

Before and after the storm hit, Gear and a few friends worked to arrange for the animals to come to the states. They landed at Norfolk International Airport around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I honestly, I was about to start crying,” says Tinsley Sarrett, who helped bring the animals from the airport to the farm. Later on in the day, she was back at the farm, hoping to adopt a dog of her own.

“It’s so heartwarming seeing that our community is just coming together for this great cause, and wanting to help these dogs, they just need a home,” says Sarrett.

The dogs have been in cages since the storm hit — only being taken out for walks.  So, when volunteers showed up to Gear’s farm, the dogs couldn’t be more excited.

“It has to be extremely traumatic for them,” says Rutherford. “They went through a storm, they lost their homes, everything. They definitely need us.”

Most of the volunteers were strangers to Gear. They heard about the animals through social media, and didn’t hesitate to help.

“I think sometimes how word gets out on social media surprises me.  But the heart of people, no I’m not surprised by how people act,” says Gear.

Most of the animals did live in shelters on the islands. Many of them are headed to shelters and rescues here in the states, and some have already been adopted.

For more information on how to adopt an animal, you can contact Island Dog Rescue.