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Categories:’s Rescue Bank Program Partners with US Coast Guard to Feed Animals Ravaged by Hurricane Irma’s Rescue Bank Program Partners with US Coast Guard to Feed Animals Ravaged by Hurricane Irma

St. John

Less than two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma ripped through the US Virgin Islands of St. John and St. Thomas as a Category 5 storm leaving catastrophic damage in its wake. These once remarkably green islands covered in lush vegetation are now brown covered in uprooted trees and debris from destroyed homes and buildings. After the storm lifted and the devastation could be witnessed, residents of St. John were informed they had lost access to ferry and cargo services, as well as access to the local airport. Many people and animals on these islands needed aid, and they needed it fast.

Once lush green hills, now brown.

Back in Houston,’s Rescue Bank program was/is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which dumped nearly a year’s worth of rain in four days. Rescue Bank workers lost homes and many belongings, but all thankfully survived. It prides us that these dedicated employees remained on the job daily to help people and animals affected by this powerful storm.

Soon after Irma’s devastating dance with the US Virgin Islands, Rescue Bank received word from St. John Animal Care Center that over 200 of the island’s dogs and cats left behind as evacuation orders came in desperately needed food and litter.

Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley crew members

After receiving word of the need, Rescue Bank arranged three deliveries to support the efforts of St. John Animal Care Center. Through a volunteer, we coordinated with a US Coast Guard Task Force Commander who was able to facilitate contact with the local San Juan Commander, in turn securing room for dog and cat food to be delivered via US Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley. The Donald Horsley Cutter had been used for several days to ferry humanitarian supplies. For this particular trip, they had room for 2,800 lbs. of Authority Brand pet food donated to Rescue Bank from PetSmart Charities and nine animal assessment personnel from our partner, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who escorted the food to the island.

Members of the Coast Guard form a human chain to unload the haul of pet food.

The Coast Guard attempted to transport the IFAW team and Rescue Bank food to St. John, though a lack of communications with the island made this nearly impossible. The closest the food could get was the nearby island of St. Thomas, where arrangements were made for private boats to ferry the food to St. John. The food was exactly what St. John Animal Care Center needed, but this was only the start.

Another shipment of 11,000 lbs. of dog and cat food—Authority Brand from PetsMart Charities and Royal Canin from MARS Petcare—and kitty litter, plus a 6200-watt generator is on its way to St. John Animal Care Center so they can use their fridge for vaccines, their water pump, and their water filtration system, so they have a way to get their animals water and keep them clean. This delivery shipped via air by FEMA. At the date of publication, these items have reached Puerto Rico, and arrangements are being made to get the items to St. John.

A third shipment of 39,000 lbs. of Authority Brand and Royal Canin dog and cat food plus litter is going to St. John Animal Care Center to not only feed the shelter animals but as an emergency supply for animals who have stayed on the island with their humans.

“It was hard enough to learn that evacuating families couldn’t board boats or planes with their pets. When we found out that shelters and vets had just a few bags of food left for almost 200 dogs and cats, we had to find a way to get food to the island as quickly as possible. We’re blessed to have such good friends among the United States Coast Guard, FEMA, Freeway Logistics in San Juan, and island residents who pitched in to deliver this food just in time.” – Elizabeth Asher, Executive Director, Rescue Bank Program

There is still much to do. To help more animals affected by Hurricane Irma, click here.

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