Dakin rescues ‘hurricane kitties’ from Puerto Rico

  • Liam O’Connell, of Hadley, greets Flan, a year-old cat from Puerto Rico in Dakin Humane Society’s Leverett facility, Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Gus, a 3-month-old rescue kitten from Puerto Rico, inside Dakin Humane Society’s Leverett facility, Tuesday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Flan, a year old rescue kitten from Puerto Rico, inside Dakin Humane Society's Leverett facility, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

For the Gazette
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

LEVERETT — Puerto Rico faces many hardships on the road to recovery from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last month. One challenge is finding homes for displaced animals.

Locally, Dakin Humane Society is pitching in to help out.

On Tuesday, two “hurricane kitties” were up for adoption at the Montague Road facility: Flan, a 1-year-old short-haired female Tabby cat, and Gus, a 3-month-old kitten. The two came to the shelter from Puerto Rico without a prior history.

“There are no state lines during a disaster. We work together as one for the best possible outcome,” said Executive Director Carmine DiCenso.

Dakin is part of a national network of animal shelters that move animals away from disaster areas, opening cages in affected areas so displaced animals immediately have somewhere safe to go.

In the past year, Dakin has taken in homeless animals displaced by other storms, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

On Friday, employees from Dakin’s Springfield facility went to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey to assist with a plane load of animals, according to Dakin’s Director of Operations Katrina King.

The Dakin crew administered medical care including vaccinations, blood draws and exams, she said.

Animals in good health were sent to adoption centers in Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Eighteen adoptable dogs and cats were brought to Springfield on Saturday.

Gus and Flan were moved to Leverett from Springfield Tuesday morning. Lee Chambers, marketing director, noted they’ll probably be adopted quickly because of their ages and personalities.

Inside the shelter, Gus curiously reached through a cage’s bars to bat a reporter’s camera lens. Flan wouldn’t leave prospective adopters alone. Standing with arched back and squinted eyes, he enjoyed the attention.

Local relief efforts

Before returning to Puerto Rico from New Jersey, the planes were filled with emergency supplies given by Pioneer Valley residents.

Dakin collaborated with Nueva Esperanza, a nonprofit Holyoke community development organization, to make sure the plane didn’t fly back empty.

“We told them we would probably be able to get items on planes headed directly down there, and they were very happy to provide us with diapers and other much-needed items,” King said.

Nueva Esperanza has helped organize relief efforts in the region since the storm struck.

In Franklin County this past weekend, Greenfield resident Millie Ruiz organized a collection Sunday at Auto Zone on Federal Street. Ruiz collected $600 and a few carloads of supplies later taken to Nueva Esperanza, she said.

For those looking to help animals displaced by disasters, DiCenso said it’s best “to adopt any animal. When someone adopts from our shelter it frees up space for another animal in need.”

To learn more about the animals for adoption, visit the shelter at 163 Montague Road, or call 413-548-9898. Adoption center hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., according to the organization’s website.

“Before the storms hit, we already had many animals in our adoption centers, and over the past six weeks we have taken in another 83 dogs and cats from parts of Texas, South Carolina, and now Puerto Rico.”

Monetary donations supporting Dakin can be given at dakinhumane.org. Or, purchase items from the humane society’s Amazon wishlist at amzn.to/2xJJBYZ.