Hundreds of homeless animals from Puerto Rico were flown on “freedom flights” to the U.S. on Saturday.
Pet welfare groups The Sato Project and Wings of Rescue teamed up with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to save 165 dogs and 135 cats from the streets of Puerto Rico and the island’s overcrowded animal shelters.
“We are thrilled to be the main transportation link in this impressive one-day rescue effort to save 300 lives and bring happiness and joy to countless families and individuals,” said Ric Browde, President of Wings of Rescue. The Sato Project
Upon arrival in White Plains, New York, and Portland, Maine, 60 of the dogs had new families waiting for them at the airport. The rest of the animals will be placed for adoption by the local rescue groups and shelters, according to a press release.
“With peak hurricane season right around the corner, my team and I are determined to transport as many of these animals off the island as possible, while it is still safe to fly,” said Chrissy Beckles, Founder and President of The Sato Project.
She added, “We are so grateful to our transport partner, Wings of Rescue, all of our shelter and rescue partners, and donors. This massive undertaking would not be possible without a great deal of hard work and collaboration. Together, we are giving 300 deserving animals a second chance at life.” The Sato Project
Puerto Rico is currently in a stray animal crisis, with an estimated 500,000 homeless dogs on the streets and the euthanasia rate in shelters between 94 and 96 percent, the press release stated.
In addition to rescuing the animals, Wings of Rescue will also deliver more than 6,000 lbs. of pet food donated by subscription pet supply company BarkBox. The Sato Project will distribute the food to shelters, independent rescuers and pet owners in need.
Funds for the project were donated by Tito’s Handmade Vodka through the spirit company’s Vodka for Dog People program. Among the dogs that were transported is one named Tito, a mixed-breed puppy rescued from Puerto Rico, now the mascot of the “freedom flights.”
“Tito’s Handmade Vodka is dedicated to helping our furry friends find safety from both overcrowded shelters and potential storms in Puerto Rico,” said Beth Bellanti Pander, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People Program Manager.
She added, “Wings of Rescue and The Sato Project are making huge impacts in animal rescue and we’re grateful to support their missions. After many years of working together, I look forward to hopping on my first transport flight with a pup named Tito and his friends and bringing them one step closer to finding their forever homes.”