Many people travel to the Caribbean to relax and enjoy life. Amidst the beautiful sandy beaches and shady palm trees, we tend to forget that life isn’t all coconuts and rum drinks in the Caribbean. According to Island Dog, a non-profit animal organization based in Puerto Rico, there are some 200,000 homeless dogs roaming the streets and beaches on Puerto Rico alone. That is a huge number for such a small territory. Several organizations on these different US islands are trying to change their plight. If you are someone who travels to one of these destinations, consider giving back to the communities that help you rejuvenate by helping a pet in need.
Pets from Paradise is program by the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center (AWC). The program allows travelers to take dogs or cats with them back to a shelter in their home city. St. Croix has a limited number of residents who can adopt animals while a mainland shelter in a city such as Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis or Dallas, will have a wider pool of resources and pet adopters to choose from. It’s a way of giving these island critters a second chance.
To participate, travelers need to contact St. Croix AWC and give them return flight information and final destination. The staff will contact the partner shelter and will make airline reservations for the pet. The staff also will meet you at the St. Croix airport with the pet ready to go and a staff member from the partner shelter will greet you at the final destination airport. The St. Croix AWC depends on travelers and sponsors to pay for the pet’s airfare.
St. Croix cats are especially popular. Allie Phillips, past president of King Street Cats in Alexandria, VA, and member of the Cat Writers’ Assocation, says the organization has taken in 27 cats in 27 months and all have found homes. She says the Cruzan cats have “beautiful Oriental faces and sparkling personalities” making them very unique. They now try to hold two spots at the Virginia facility just for Cruzan cats so fellow Virginians can “bring a St. Croix cat to warm [their] home.”
St. Croix AWC has partner shelters in the following US States: Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. If you live in a state without a partner shelter you can still help by sponsoring the transportation of a pet either with money or consider donating frequent flyer miles. Other items needed for the program are animal carriers (hard or soft), doggie jackets for cold weather destinations, collars and toys or ask a local shelter to become a St. Croix partner shelter. Shelters interested in partnering with St. Croix AWC can call 340-778-1650 or email the Pets from Paradise Coordinator at email@example.com.
The Animal Care Center of St. John (ACC) encourages island visitors to consider the ultimate souvenir; a shelter dog or cat. Similar to St. Croix, St. John is so small, only 4100 full-time residents, so adoption from outside the island is critical to helping their animals. They have partnered with a few large airlines for their Off-Island Adoption Program. Anyone wanting to take dog or cat home can do so easily through Delta, American or US Air.
Travelers who visit the ACC and find a critter they just can’t leave without can work with the shelter and airlines to get their new pet home. An island vet will provide a rabies shot and a health certificate, required by the airlines to fly. Puppies, small dogs, cats and kittens can be carried in the airplane passenger cabins provided they have escape-proof carriers. These over-the-shoulder pet carriers can be purchased at Canines, Cats and Critters in Palm Plaza and the ACC has a few used carriers for sale on site. Travelers must then purchase a one-way pet airline ticket, which is $50 for Delta and $80 for American and US Air. To learn more, contact the ACC at 340-774-1625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Island Dog of Puerto Rico works in the US Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, Vieques and Culebra. Their mission is to raise public awareness about the situation of homeless dogs throughout these islands. They have been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and in People Magazine. They have many dogs available for adoption and information on how to bring an island dog into the States. They have rehomed over 800 dogs since starting up in 2007. Just visit their Adoption Page for more information.
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