Shelter Rebuild: One year after Hurricane Maria

Shelter Rebuild: One year after Hurricane Maria

By Natasha San Miguel, ADLA volunteer

It’s almost the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, and Amigos de los Animales (ADLA) is diligently working to finish rebuilding its dog shelter after the devastating effects of the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, and, according to news reports, resulted in the deaths of over 4,500 Island residents and the disappearance of an unknown amount of stray dogs and cats.

Hurricane Maria threatens the lives of ADLA’s rescue dogs

Located in the beach town of Piñones, Loiza, ADLA’s shelter was hit hard by Maria:

“I stayed at the Shelter during the Hurricane and it was horrible. I thought our roof was going to blow off. The Shelter would have been completely destroyed if not for the boards we put up to protect the windows. The dogs were all freaked out; they didn’t know what was going on,”

says Shelter Director Adrienne Galler Lastra, who has lived at the Shelter for over 10 years and cared for the thousands of dogs rehabilitated be ADLA.

The Shelter houses approximately 60 to 70 stray and abandoned dogs at any given time and the Hurricane left the structure in such a shambles the organization was unsure it would be able to continue rescuing. ADLA either had to come up with a way to rebuild, or the shelter would have to shut down. Some of the destruction consisted of the gates surrounding the Shelter being ripped from their hinges and for months following the hurricane, gates were held up with rope and plastic ties.

shelter rebuild

The hinges could not withstand the force of the Hurricane and gates were being held together by rope. At any time, the rope could have given way and the dogs would have been able to escape the patio of the shelter.

 

gates prior to rebuild

These gates separated the runs from the patio. It was becoming very hard for shelter staff and volunteers to move from the patio to the runs and dogs were at risk of injury from protruding metal screen edges.

 

The coverings of the back and front patio were also ripped off by the wind, as was the tin lining covering the dog runs. The ceiling of the interior of the shelter leaked every time it rained, and the sand brought in from the beach clogged the drainage system in the back.

All over the Shelter the ceiling had begun to deteriorate and after the rains during and following the Hurricane desperately needed a rebar treatment and repatching.

 

back part of shelter drainage

The rebuild begins

In December 2017, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ® (ASPCA) awarded $10,000 to ADLA to put towards rebuilding the Shelter and preventing further damage. Early 2018, PEDIGREE Foundation ® awarded an additional $2,500 for the Rebuild. These funds were instrumental in completing Phase I of the Rebuild: which involved sealing the roof to prevent further damage by rainfall; removing and reinstalling new gating throughout the Shelter; and replacing the covers of the coverings for the front and back patio. The funds also provided for replacing the gates of the runs, along with the tin roofing on the runs which protects the dogs from the sun and rain.

“Thanks to the generous grants we received from ASPCA and Pedigree, we were able to continue to allocate our regular funding towards saving the animals, which was especially important during this time of real need for the community of Loiza and Piñones Beach, and the stray dogs roaming our town.” says Adri.

front porch reconstruction

Front Porch after Rebuild. The carton was replaced as well as some of the wood which had rotted from the moisture.

 

About ADLA and its location

Piñones Beach is a popular beach and weekend hangout for Puerto Ricans. It is also a very low-income neighborhood (with the majority of the population living under the poverty level), and a famous dumping ground for unwanted dogs.

“People think that because they leave the dogs on a beach, and there are kiosks and restaurants all over, and people coming and going, the dogs will get by; some might even hope their dog will get picked them up. But these animals are meant to be cared for as companions, they can’t get by on their own.” Adri continued: “Here, the perception of companion animals is slowly changing. In a way, the media attention Puerto Rico has received since Hurricane Maria has been a blessing for the animals. Not only are more pets being rescued, but people are watching it happen; it’s being broadcast. By witnessing the effort organizations and individuals are willing to put into rescuing, people are realizing these animals are worth it.”

kids on beach with Adri

These are some Piñones residents on the beach with ADLA’s Shelter Director Adri and her service dog Cinderella. Adri regularly visits the beach with Cinderella and usually another well-socialized rescue dogs to teach the young children about proper pet care.

 

Thanks to the grant support, ADLA has been able to continue its mission of rescuing and rehoming stray dogs (some of these extremely abused). Everyday, there are new dogs roaming the streets and the hurricane has exacerbated the situation. Many residents left the Island or lost their house, resulting in the abandonment of their pets. ADLA has rescued close to 200 dogs since the hurricane.

Micah

This is Micah. Micah was rescued on the road that runs along Piñones Beach. He had an old burn wound on his side probably from an acid or grease burn. Micah spent about 2 months at the Shelter before he was transported to New Hampshire by Hearts and Tails Animal Alliance.

 

Manchitas Puppies

These are Manchita’s puppies. Manchita is owned by a homeless woman, and was pregnant but could not give birth. ADLA took Manchita to the vet where a cesarean was performed. Manchita’s 10 babies were bottlefed from birth and at approximately 3 months of age flew to a sister shelter in the United States. In this photo, they are sleeping with their pet gorilla. Their mom Manchita was returned to her owner.

Continuing to Rebuild

The second phase of the Shelter Rebuild is currently underway and involves construction on the ceiling, electrical circuits damaged by the storm, as well as repainting: “We will still lose electricity from time to time, and this damages our circuitry,” Galler-Lastra explained. “We still don’t know the extent of the damage or the full cost of repairs. Yet we are so blessed not have so far been spared of hurricanes or serious storms this year.”

ADLA is looking for volunteers and donations to complete the second phase of the Rebuild. For those interested in contributing funds or services contact info@amigosdelosanimalespr.org. Donations can be given online or sent by mail to HC 2 Box 7622, Loiza, Puerto Rico 00772.

About the PEDIGREE Foundation

Formed in 2008 by the makers of PEDIGREE ® food for dogs, the PEDIGREE ® Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping dogs in need find loving homes by supporting the good work of shelters and dog rescue organizations throughout the country. Through no fault of their own, more than four million dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations every year, and nearly half of them never find a place to call homes. For more information on how you can support the foundation visit https://www.pedigreefoundation.org/.

About the ASPCA®

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. For more information, visit https://www.ASPCA.org, and follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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