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A Disaster Response Update: Supporting Florida Shelters

BISSELL Pet Foundation is working tirelessly to support the people and animals impacted by Hurricane Ian in Florida. The images are devastating. Nearly 200,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes. I want to share with you what we are doing to help and the heroism on the front line.

Our partner, Code 3 Associates, is on the ground performing search and rescue in DeSoto County. Working with Code 3 and our National Shelter Alliance, we are committed to supporting them to shelter and move pets through this operation. They are currently stationed in Arcadia, responding to needs as they come in. If you are in DeSoto County and need help, please call the DeSoto Sheriff’s Office at 863-993-4700.

Our mission at BPF is to help shelters and the animals within them. Florida’s shelters and animal welfare workers are strong and are facing this tragedy head-on. What they need from us is space. We are moving the pets that were homeless before the storm out of areas impacted by Hurricane Ian. We are working closely to support several incredible teams, including Humane Society of Sarasota County and Humane Society of Naples. Homeless pets from damaged shelters are transferring into these two shelters as they make room, and BPF is funding transport, paying placement incentive grants and facilitating placement with our partners. Other groups are doing the same; Brandywine Valley SPCA and Wings of Rescue are working from the same continuous growing list of pets to place with their partners. The list continues to grow.

BPF is also partnering with Slomba Shelter Solutions as we take direction from the University of Florida Shelter Medicine program on which needs should be addressed first. They are a force in the state, checking in with every shelter and disseminating information to all the national groups standing ready to help.

Before the storm, we partnered with Greater Birmingham Humane Society to pre-evacuate some pets from Suncoast Humane Society and Citrus County Animal Services. At that time, they could move the pets out by ground. Unfortunately, ground transport has become very complex due to road closures and the lack of available gas. Therefore, we have decided to turn to air transport.

Our transports begin today, and we have a very special flight taking place. Race for Life Rescue, a pet aviation transport organization, will fly its first mission! The BPF team is excited to be a part of their first flight, which will deliver crates to Humane Society of Naples for our large transport on Tuesday and return to Tennessee, delivering 40 cats to Animal Rescue Corps.

We will fund a second flight north to the New York area on Tuesday. This flight will be significantly larger, bringing pets to multiple partners. I want to mention that none of the work above would be possible without our vast network of rescues and shelters standing ready to take these pets. Shelters are full across the county, but we are grateful for the organizations making room for Florida pets during this incredibly difficult time. It is heartwarming to receive inquiries from shelters and rescues hundreds of miles away asking how they can help.

Please follow both me and BPF on Instagram and Facebook for updates and pictures of heroism, pets being transported, and information on what you can do to help the people and pets of Florida. Our hearts are with all of those impacted, from Florida to North Carolina.