The Sato Project has teamed up with the Humane Society and Wings of Rescue to bring hundreds of strays stateside – but they’re still about $20,000 short.
Flying with one dog can be ruff – imagine trying to transport 200.
But a pack of charities is planning to do just that on Wednesday, when a couple hundred rescue dogs are being flown from Puerto Rico – where the overburdened shelters have euthanasia rates as high as 99% – to no-kill shelters and forever homes on the eastern U.S. seaboard.
It’s a massive rescue mission running up a $130,000 tab – and it’s still about $20,000 short. It’s raised $46,000 so far, but if it hits $65,000, the donations will be matched so they hit their target.
“No city in the U.S. has a 95% euthanizing rate, and this is part of the U.S., but they’re 20 years behind,” organizer Chrissy Beckles, 44, told Moneyish. “We have to do something.”
The professional boxer and former consultant launched The Sato Project six years ago, which rescues abused and abandoned dogs (a.k.a. satos) in Puerto Rico. There are more strays on the island than humans thanks to a perfect storm of too-few shelters, unenforced spay and neuter laws, and warm weather year-round that lets strays thrive outside.
So The Sato Project has been working with the Humane Society of the United States to educate the Puerto Rican public and law enforcement in the importance of spaying and neutering pets. They’ve been rescuing pooches from the grimly-named Dead Dog Beach, giving them medical attention and placing them in shelters and homes. And they’ve also been relieving the overburdened shelters by transporting small groups of dogs out of the U.S. island territory and bringing them stateside to shelters that have room.
The Sato Project has flown dogs out on seven previous “Mission Possible” rescues ranging from 20 to 100 dogs a trip over the past five years. But Wednesday’s flight of 203 dogs will be their largest operation yet:
“I hated math in school, and the amount of equations I’ve had to do for this transport is not even funny,” Beckles said. “I feel like my math teacher is out there somewhere laughing at me like, ‘You should have paid more attention, Chrissy.’”
Every dog is getting a full physical, vaccinations and microchips from Humane Society-supported vets in Puerto Rico, or in the receiving shelters once they arrive stateside.
Wings of Rescue has donated two $30,000 airplanes (thanks in large part to donations from the Greater Good charity) to fly the dogs into Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Volunteers will be flying with the dogs to make sure they’re safe and comfortable, and the dogs will be checked out by vets again once they land.
“This is a country where last year, they euthanized approximately 4 million pets,” Ric Browde from Wings of Rescue told Moneyish. They carry 10,000 pets to safety all over the country each year.
“This is why we fly. It’s just the right thing to do,” he added. “And we have been incredibly fortunate to be funded by the kindness of strangers. There’s a lot of good people in the world who recognize the need.”
Then some of the North Carolina arrivals will ride in two semi trucks up to Monmouth, N.J., where the local SPCA will help place the dogs with other rescue partners. Many pups have already lucked into foster and forever homes thanks to animal lovers who fell in love with their pictures online.
And Community Pet Shop on Long Island is sending more than 1,000 pounds of dog food to Monmouth to feed the arriving rescues.
Members of the animal-lover alliance are pouring tons of their own sweat and pocket money into this. “I dropped $400 at Home Depot last night just on cleaning supplies for this transport,” Beckles told Moneyish. She’s rescued three satos, herself, and also still boxes occasionally to win prize money for her passion project. And her husband, Hollywood stuntman Bobby Beckles, has rallied a team of fellow stuntmen to coordinate where all the carriers will go on the planes, and to physically tote the carriers on and off the planes.
How can you help? Donate through The Sato Project’s YouCaring site. Just $25 can cover a dog’s travel certification or a rabies vaccine. Or $200 can cover heartworm treatment once they get stateside.
No amount is too small. Browde from Wings of Rescue said the $60,000 for the planes this trip has been backed by mostly $5 donations. “Hey, don’t go to Starbucks today, or don’t go to McDonald’s for one meal, and that $5 can help make the world a better place,“ he said. Support Wings of Rescue’s freedom flights here.
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