Homeless Pets From Hurricane Ian Travel to New York on Rare Rescue Flight

The biggest pet rescue mission since Hurricane Ian struck Florida took place yesterday, with over 120 animals being flown out of Naples, Florida, by animal welfare organization the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

On Wednesday, various partners from the Humane Society of Sarasota County and the Humane Society of Naples helped load cats and dogs from affected shelters onto a flight. The plane was leaving Florida to help bring those animals to other shelters in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and even Canada.

The aim of the rescue mission is to make room in the impacted Florida shelters, amid an influx of displaced pets. Since Hurricane Ian, shelters have been seeing a rise in families handing over their pets, either temporarily or permanently, as they no longer have the means to care for them.

Some shelters affected in Florida have had to close other operations, including the adoption of animals, in order to focus all their efforts on helping newly displaced dogs. Those pets being flown across the country were already with the shelters prior to Hurricane Ian.

"Shelters are full across the country, and we are grateful for the organizations making room for Florida shelter pets during this difficult time," said Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

"The BISSELL Pet Foundation team is honored to have the support of these shelters and rescues as they receive pets from this transport. Together, we are providing much needed relief for the shelters throughout the impacted areas and saving lives."

Hurricane Ian was described by President Joe Biden as one of the "worst in the nation's history," as it ripped through the state over the weekend. After hitting Cuba, the storm moved over to the western coast of Florida, destroying homes. Power cut out for around a quarter of the state and some areas even saw over 20 inches of rainfall.

The hurricane has a current reported death toll of over 120 people, and over 2.5 million Floridians were placed under evacuation orders ahead of the storm.

Pet owners who have been affected and uprooted by the storm have been at times left with no other choice but to hand their four-legged friends over to the care of a local shelter instead.

The BISSELL Pet Foundation received pre-evacuation requests for shelter pets ahead of the hurricane arriving. The organization has been working with Code 3 associates to help coordinate and fund the transport of pets in Florida shelters to ones elsewhere that currently have the capacity to look after them.

Despite this flight being the biggest of the hurricane so far, it's not the first. The BISSELL Pet Foundation coordinated a flight of 40 cats to Tennessee on Monday. The ASPCA for example also helped the Lee County Animal Services with the evacuation of over 50 homeless animals in the path of the storm, ahead of it arriving, and continued to do so after.