Barks, meows, and eager whines sounded out from a Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA van as yellow-smocked staff unloaded 21 dogs and 19 cats newly arrived from Puerto Rico, all displaced refugee of Hurricane Fiona.
Cats and kittens chattered in their carriers as the dogs bounded out, pausing for a quick bathroom break and a photo session upon their Thursday afternoon arrival.
Two dogs and three kittens rescued from Hurricane Ian arrived in the morning from Florida. It was an unusually large intake for CASPCA, which usually brings in around 10 animals at a time. Most of those rescues are local.
Rescue manager Tori Cunningham started work at 7:30 a.m. to bring the pets from Richmond, where they’d been flown to from Puerto Rico, to Charlottesville. She spent an hour and a half on the Richmond International Airport tarmac, sorting through the animals to get the pets that had been assigned to Charlottesville. She and other shelter staff then drove another hour and a half back to town.
“I’ll be here until it all gets done,” Cunningham said. “It” requires getting all of the rescues through their intake exams and, hopefully, on to foster homes.
Cunningham has helped coordinate rescues for the shelter for two years, but this rescue stood out to her.
“They desperately needed to move animals, so it’s special in the sense that we were able to step up and take some,” she said.
She isn’t alone in her commitment to the dogs and cats.
“It’s really important that we are there to support shelters nationwide when they find themselves in this type of crisis. I hope that if we’re ever in that situation, we’ll be able to rely on others to support us,” said CASPCA CEO Angie Gunter.
Bringing animals in, however, means needing to let some animals out. The shelter needs foster homes and families for some current residents in order to accommodate both animals it already has and the hurricane refugee pets.
“We couldn’t say no to helping these animals in need, but we desperately need help from the community in order to make space for them,” Gunter said. “Fostering, even for a very short amount of time, can be extremely beneficial to the animal and rewarding for the foster parent as well.”
Living in a foster home gives a pet a break from a sometimes-stressful shelter environment. It’s a way to get a cat or a dog to show off their personality when they’ve already experienced trauma.
What the SPCA especially needs, Gunter said, are foster families and forever families for its bigger adult dogs and pups that weigh more than 30 pounds.
“We usually have a waitlist for smaller adult dogs and puppies. We’re really having a hard time lining people up for large adult dogs,” Gunter said.
The hurricane rescues are likely to be adopted out quickly, once they become available in a few weeks, Gunter said. That’s what happened with the dozens of Envigo beagles CASPCA rescued over the summer. Large adult dogs who have been at the shelter longer may have a little more trouble.
To help CASPCA accommodate its animals, potential fosters need to live within an hour and a half drive of the shelter. CASPCA provides all necessary supplies and food at no cost to foster families, has an emergency call line that connects fosters with a staff member at any hour of the day, and an on-site clinic for veterinary needs.
First-time fosters can sign up online at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA website.
The shelter is also open for walk-in foster appointments every day from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
People interested in donating can send funds directly via CASPCA’s website or purchase items from its Amazon wish list.
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