Even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico, many shelters and animals were struggling. Huge intake of animals, limited resources, and widespread disease outbreaks made saving lives incredibly challenging, but partnerships with mainland rescue groups and animal organizations gave everyone involved hope.
And then the hurricanes came.
The Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida had been scheduled to visit a number of Puerto Rican shelters, only to have our visit canceled twice due to the storms. That may have slowed us down, but it hasn’t stopped us!
We’ve been there twice already this year, and we’ll be returning next week with MSMP Director Dr. Cynda Crawford, team leader Dr. Sarah Kirk, faculty member Dr. Julie Levy, as well as Cameron Moore, Dr. Jill Kirk, and three veterinary students earning the Certificate in Shelter Medicine.
Our first stop will be a return to Villa Michelle Albergue Animales in Mayaquez, an open-admission nonprofit shelter with many municipal contracts and an 8000-9000 dog and cat intake per year.
Our team has been working with the shelter to combat disease outbreaks by institution of vaccination at the time of intake, implementing veterinary oversight of animal health, developing life-saving alternatives to intake such as TNR for community cats, and removing barriers to adoption.
We’ll continue that work, but are also incredibly excited to be coaching the shelter staff through preparations for their first-ever large-scale adoptathon, which will take place July 13-14!
We’ll also be making our first visit to San Francisco de Asis Animal Sanctuary in Cabo Rojo, as well as visiting and consulting with other shelters while on the island.
We’ll be there for more than a week, and we’re inviting you to be part of this powerful journey. We’ll be posting photos and updates every day on our program’s Facebook page, and our team will be sharing their stories on social media using hashtag #UFsheltermedPR. We’ll invite you into the work we’re doing — the challenges, the victories, the people, the places, and above all, the lives and welfare of the thousands of animals whose lives we are there to touch.
Change isn’t just coming for Puerto Rico’s animals and the people who love them; it’s here! Be part of it with us!