After Dorian destroys pet shelter, South Florida rescue groups fly to Abaco Islands to help

FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Some South Florida-based rescue groups flew to Great Abaco Island to help animals after Hurricane Dorian destroyed a local shelter.

7News cameras captured Chris Roberts, a founding member of the Abaco Shelter, interacting with two dogs wandering the streets, Wednesday afternoon.

“Boots over there, he just can’t quite let go,” said Roberts. “Gaga is shy. She’s sweet. She’s one of my favorite dogs that’s here.”

“They’re innocent. They don’t have a voice,” said Maria Gaspari from Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue.

When the Category 5 storm ravaged Great Abaco and other communities in the Bahamas, it displaced hundreds, possibly thousands of animals.

Dorian also destroyed the tiny, volunteer-run Abaco Shelter.

“We had just about gotten to the point where we were down with our Phase 1 of improvements, and then the hurricane came,” said Roberts.

Of the 45 dogs at the shelter, most were evacuated to a nearby warehouse or to foster homes.

“Two of those dogs died when the houses were destroyed,” said Roberts.

A few of the least socialized canines stayed at the shelter. All but one made it through the storm.

The strong winds took away most of the roof, tossed around enclosures and flattened the chain-link fence.

Some of the dogs that remain at the facility are hiding in nearby bushes. Others have sought shelter in shaded areas under portions of the toppled fence because they know they can get food and water.

“How they survived there, I have no idea. I mean, they’re survivors,” said Roberts.

Volunteers with Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue brought large containers filled with dog and cat food on Wednesday to help ease the burden on those running the Abaco Shelter and others trying to house pets.

“I got a lot of food that I can get in,” said a man who is currently feeding nearly 100 cats.

Jennifer Gardner with the International Fund for Animal Welfare said the need to help these dogs and cats is overwhelming.

“Our hope is to reunite these animals with their families,” she said.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has set up shop in Great Abaco and is taking care of lost and sick animals, as well as helping pet owners who have stayed behind.

“We hope that this will just be a quick measure until people can get their feet back on the ground,” said Gardner.

While the task is daunting, the South Florida groups said, the animals will not be abandoned.

“It’s very heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking, and my heart completely feels for these people. It’s horrible,” said Frank Polanco with South Florida Helping Hands.

“They look defeated, you know? They’re giving up. They’re just here, waiting for food and for water, and that’s it,” said Gaspari, “so we need to help them somehow.”

Representatives from Bullies-N-Beyond and South Florida Helping Hands said they’re gathering supplies that the Abaco Shelter needs. They said they plan to go back and help the shelter’s volunteers rebuild.

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