Hoosiers welcome 82 animals rescued from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

Photo of animals rescued from Puerto Rico. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Dozens of hurricane-displaced animals from Puerto Rico shelters arrived Monday night in Indianapolis.

The 82 homeless cats and dogs – among the most helpless of refugees in the aftermath of Maria – were flown to Indianapolis Regional Airport in Greenfield as part of a Humane Society-backed rescue mission.

“The situation [in Puerto Rico] is heartbreaking,” said Kimberley Alboum, a Humane Society shelter director. “The needs are overwhelming at this point. We are working to bring daily supplies to the island and remove homeless pets.”

The animals transported to safety in the Midwest are from Vieques, a small island off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast devastated by Maria, as well as foster homes on the main island.

All 82 arrived in Indianapolis with health certificates and required vaccinations, according to Indy Humane, the Humane Society’s local rescue partner. Their shelter, located on Michigan Road, will take in 18 of the furry refugees; the rest will be cared for by other area shelters and rescue partners.

“I can’t even imagine what these animals have been through,” said Rob Johansen, an Indy Humane volunteer. “We see needy dogs and cats every day but when they come in from places like Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico, it’s a little more intense. You know they’re traumatized and we’re honored to help.”

Their nearly 2,000-mile journey included a stop in Florida and numerous flight delays. Johansen and other volunteers gathered for hours on the Greenfield tarmac to await their arrival, and were overcome with emotion when they finally spotted the plane’s blinking lights moving closer to the airport.

“My head’s a little numb but my heart is full,” he said, adding he had spotted “about 40” dogs he was tempted to adopt himself.

Every pup that emerged from the plane drew a collective “Aww!” from the group of volunteers on the tarmac. One crate – with two dogs in it – elicited shrieks of delight.

“I have a feeling they won’t have any trouble finding permanent homes for these guys,” an airport staffer observed with a smile.