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FOUR PAWS provides Puerto Rico with pet supplies, disaster expertise

Animal welfare group delivers 4,000 pounds of pet food, sees animal abandonment, water access, as growing challenge


Oct. 25, 2017 – FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, delivered 4,000 pounds of dry dog and cat food this week to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Four members of FOUR PAWS’ Disaster Relief Unit distributed the food and performed basic veterinary exams during their current mission in Puerto Rico.


Over 580 animals will receive food from FOUR PAWS and the supplies will last about two weeks.


The goal of the week-long mission is to help stray animals and owned pets in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria. FOUR PAWS is working to help owners and local community members who currently do not have the ability or resources to acquire enough food for the local animals to survive.


FOUR PAWS believes animal welfare is community welfare, meaning that if pets are taken care of and have food and water, people can focus on their own wellbeing. FOUR PAWS’ Disaster Relief Unit is helping to provide critical supplies in remote areas that have been harder to reach in the aftermath of the storm, such as Aguadilla, Rincon, Ponce and Villalba.


Meanwhile, the FOUR PAWS team has been briefed on the ground about a very recent development of animal owners increasingly abandoning their animals as they flee the island.


“The abandonment of animals, dropped off at local shelters or roaming the streets, is becoming more and more serious,” said Dr. Jackson Zee, Director of FOUR PAWS’ Disaster Relief Unit.


Robert Ware, Country Director for FOUR PAWS USA, traveled to Miami from their headquarters in Boston to collect the donated pet food and secure its transport to San Juan by air freight.


Dr. Jackson Zee and his team picked up the donated pet food in San Juan Monday morning and transported it via caravan to Pitbull Angels in Aguadilla, the Animal Rescue Foundation in Rincon along with Vets for Strays in Ponce among helping individuals.


Zee said the good news is that government shelters in Puerto Rico are accepting in pets but clean water is still the most urgent need. 


“We were happy to learn that shelters are accepting pets, which is a policy strongly supported by FOUR PAWS, however with communications and electricity still down on many parts of the island, we’ve seen that it’s very difficult for people and pets to return to their homes, thus relying on government aide for longer periods of time,” said Zee.


Ware said this mission was complicated by the lack of power and lack of clean water yet FOUR PAWS was able to work with authorities to distribute the food.

“FOUR PAWS USA worked with the Disaster Relief Unit and people on the ground in Puerto Rico to make this mission happen and help to ensure more dogs and cats on the island had access to food during recovery efforts,” said Ware.


FOUR PAWS has also received information of the growing number of reports of leptospirosis in Puerto Rico, a rodent-born bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals and commonly occurs post-flooding. Zee cautioned animal owners to wash their hands and boil their water to make sure their food and water is clean.


Zee is a trained veterinarian experienced in disaster relief efforts in Iraq, Indonesia, Philippines, China, Japan, Thailand, India, Caribbean, Australia, and the US. Born in New York, he earned his veterinary degree in Australia and returned to New York to complete his doctorate in behavioral ecology. He brings more than 20 years of experience in hands-on work with animals and building resilience with people and communities for their animals.


Zee and his team will be in Puerto Rico until Thursday, Oct. 26.

FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organization with headquarters in Vienna, Austria and US headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organization strives to help animals in need with sustainable campaigns and projects. The work is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise as well as intensive national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals that are directly under human influence: stray dogs and stray cats, farm animals, companion animals and wild animals including bears, big cats and orangutans kept in inappropriate conditions. With offices in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly.