MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan nonprofit is doing its part to help the Florida communities hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Noah Project, a no-kill animal shelter, is working with a rescue group to transport nine dogs to Muskegon to find a new home.
According to an email provided to News 8, Popo Pitbulls Rescue had recently transferred 14 dogs to shelters in Naples and Fort Myers but had to take them back after Hurricane Ian caused severe flooding and widespread damage.
For now, the dogs are being housed in the Fort Lauderdale area. Bringing them north not only helps the pets find forever homes but also helps the shelters dealing with a decimated community.
“What happens is the number of owner surrenders (goes up) because they don’t have homes, or they found a place to stay but they can’t bring a pet. So, resultingly, all these shelters get bombarded,” Noah Project President Jane McGregor told News 8. “There are so many pets that are lost or abandoned right now. So what we’ve tried to do in the past during major disasters such as Hurricane Harvey is empty the existing inventory (of animals) and move them north so those shelters can better serve the actual victims of the storm.”
Noah Project is working with another nonprofit, Pilots N Paws, to get the dogs flown to Michigan so they can be adopted. There’s no set time frame yet for when the dogs will arrive in Muskegon but McGregor expects to have answers soon.
“It’s an amazing organization, again a nonprofit 501(c)(3), where private residents and private companies will donate their planes and pilots volunteer their time. It’s the most efficient way to get them from the Fort Lauderdale-area to Muskegon,” McGregor said. “It’s a whole lot better than 24-hour drive time, which turns into a one-night stay and it turns into a lot more time because you have to stop and let the dogs out. It’s not easy to take nine dogs in a rest area, you know. It takes a lot of time and it’s a lot of stress.”
While the transportation plans take shape, Noah Project and Popo Pitbulls Rescue are working on getting the dogs vet-certified so they can be legally adopted after being brought across state lines.
“Whether its by plane or by automobile, there’s still an element of trauma or stress. So usually, once they come in, they’ll go into isolation just to make sure that they’re going to be healthy and have one of our local vets check them out,” McGregor said. “I would say probably within a week (of arrival) they’ll be ready to adopt.”
Adopting isn’t the only way to help pets or the shelters that provide them care. Donations and volunteers are also sorely needed.
“There’s no magic money machine,” McGregor said. “No. 1, I don’t think our Noah Project van could hold nine dogs. So we would have to rent a van, we’re going to have to pay for gas. And the volunteers that are on their way from Florida, we’d like to help them with expenses, too. Cash is always king.”
She continued: “We had a local business that actually ran a little fundraiser drive for us for goods and delivered a bunch of cleaning supplies. That’s always in demand: bleach, laundry detergent, blankets, toys, treats.”
Foster homes can also be a huge help to shelters. Animal shelters across the country, including in West Michigan, are operating near full capacity. Foster homes allow dogs to get better acclimated to life outside the shelter and open space to serve other animals.
“We try to use fosters only once the dog has been (adopted). We’ll put them into a temporary foster situation just to make sure it’s going to work out. But we’re going to put the foster application up on the website today in case someone is interested in fostering either one of these guys or one of our existing (pets),” McGregor said.