Sali Gear couldn’t sit back while there were helpless animals who needed help after Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Gear, a Virginia Beach resident, co-owns Island Dog Rescue, a local nonprofit that specializes in saving dogs from the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she grew up. She had originally planned to fly to about 20 animals to the continental U.S. each day over a week after Hurricane Irma, but after the news of Hurricane Maria broke, her plans had to change.
With only two days to plan before Maria made landfall, Gear had to raise the money to charter a plane so she could rescue 300 animals who were in harm’s way.
Donors pitched in $112,000 charter flight from Miami to the islands in order to transport the animals as well as an extra $5,000 for carriers. The animals landed safely in Norfolk, Virginia, around 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
“I did it because it had to be done. People have moved heaven and earth to make this happen.This is a sprint, not a marathon. I’m exhausted emotionally, physically – but spiritually, I’m not,” she told The Virginian-Pilot.
Many of the animals are being cared for at Gear’s Virginia Beach farm by 250 volunteers from the area. According to The Virginian-Pilot, some rescue groups have picked some of the animals up at the airport to transfer them. Others met at Gear’s farm to take them to their new homes in places like Boston, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina, Gear and the rescue groups consider the animals to be highly adoptable, even considering the harsh conditions they’ve been through.
“They all seem happy,” she said. “Island dogs are like that.”