Sixty-two dogs and cats were rescued from hurricane-battered Puerto Rico this weekend, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
After months of organizing, the Dallas-based airline completed a relief flight that brought 14,000 pounds of supplies to the island. On a return flight to Baltimore, 62 stray animals left behind during Hurricane Maria were on board the aircraft.
“Each animal was boarded in the cabin of the aircraft in a crate which was secured into seats with seatbelt extenders,” according to Southwest.
A veterinarian and volunteers from Lucky Dog were also on board to monitor the animals, the airline said.
The humanitarian flight was organized after a call from Washington, D.C.-based Lucky Dog Animal Rescue regarding their Puerto Rican partner’s need to relocate animals rescued before or after Hurricane Maria hit the island in late September.
"The devastation that Hurricane Maria caused the communities of Puerto Rico is heartbreaking," said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines Chief Communications Officer. "Our Employees are eager to lend a hand in bringing relief to San Juan by partnering with DC-based animal organization, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, and Puerto Rico Animal Relief organization, PR Animals, in transporting dozens of impacted animals to the DC area in hopes of finding their forever homes."
Foster families in Puerto Rico had been taking care of the stray animals through the rescue organization PR Animals.
It’s not the first time Southwest Airlines has helped in the wake of a major hurricane. Two weeks before Maria hit Puerto Rico, Southwest rescued pets affected by Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on the Gulf Coast in late August.