Suncoast Animal League rescues pets, strays in Puerto Rico

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Forgotten pets in Puerto Rico could soon have new homes in Florida thanks to the Suncoast Animal League in Palm Harbor.

The animal rescue group put four volunteers on a commercial flight from Orlando to San Juan on Thursday.

They loaded up their bags with pet food and $3,000 worth of animal vaccines to aid dogs and cats suffering on the island.

"They've gone through the storm. They probably have cuts that are becoming infected. They're hungry. They're thirsty. They're drinking groundwater. They're drinking sewage water," said Rick Chaboudy, Executive Director of the Suncoast Animal League.

Much of the island is still badly damaged from the storm and without power, according to volunteers.

"Leaving the airport, every single tree was just dead. All the grass is dead. There's no leaves. There are power lines all over the place," said Aja Estro.

Volunteers have been in contact with animal shelters throughout Puerto Rico. They said the shelters are struggling to care for the animals. They only have enough food to feed them once a day.

Animal vaccines went bad after Hurricane Maria because they could not be refrigerated without power.

Suncoast volunteers plan to travel to at least three shelters throughout the island to round up animals in need of a new home.

They plan to bring as many animals back as they can to their 1,700 square foot facility in Palm Harbor that is already housing several pets displaced during Hurricane Irma.

"We're estimating over 150 right now of dogs and cats that need to come back with us, but just this morning we got another shelter that is in need of assistance. The numbers are going to keep rising, and we're going to continue to need as much help as we can get," said Estro.

The rescuers plan to fly back to Orlando around 8 p.m. Sunday with several dogs and cats. They are planning a second rescue mission in a few weeks with the help of donated private planes.

To learn more about the Suncoast Animal League, visit