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Animal Rescuers Get To Work In Puerto Rico After Maria (Photos)

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As Puerto Rico continues to recover after Hurricane Maria, thousands of animals are being airlifted off of the island to be placed in new homes elsewhere.

Many of the animals are stray dogs and cats that were previously being cared for by rescue groups. Some of the dogs were cared for an organization called The Sato Project, an animal welfare organization that would frequently pick up animals from a beach where people are known to abandon pets -- a place appropriately dubbed "Dead Dog Beach."

Christina Beckles, founder of The Sato Project, told the New York Post the abandoned feral animals left on the beach are likely to have died in the storm.

"Once the hugs and tears were over, the first thing we all wanted to do was go to the beach to look for our feral dogs," Beckles wrote in an email. "Sadly, we did not find them and our hearts are heavy with the reality upon seeing the utter devastation at the beach -- they did not survive."

The headquarters of The Sato Project is completely destroyed, Today reports. Beckles also lost her home in Puerto Rico as a result of the storm. She described the island as a "war zone."

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Beckles said the area near Dead Dog Beach was hit directly by the hurricane.

"The municipality suffered the loss of 99% of their buildings," she wrote. "We were caring for 3 feral dogs there and they have not been seen since 9/19.”

She added: "We have rescued three dogs since the hurricane -- all dumped during the storm. One is heavily pregnant and was with a small puppy."

Beckles was frustrated at having to comply with the island's curfew implemented since the storm. As of Sept. 27, she had still not received any aid and much of the island remained without power.

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Other rescue organizations have been more fortunate in their ability to get themselves and the animals off of the island. Rick Browde, president and CEO of the nonprofit group Wings of Rescue, has been almost constantly in a plane since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August.

"We just want to do what's best," Browde told Today. "Make sure that we are doing the right thing."

Wings of Rescue helps animals and also flies in supplies for the people still struggling on the island. On Sept. 29, Browde flew in a rented cargo plane packed with water, food, diapers and other supplies to Puerto Rico and then left for New Jersey with the plane full of pets.

The Humane Society of the United States is also chartering planes to Puerto Rico to pick up animals that were previously in shelters on the island.

HSUS also has volunteers working on the island to take care of local animals.

"We're there to stay until things get better," said Kim Alboum, shelter outreach and policy engagement director for HSUS.

The animals that make it back to the mainland U.S. will be placed in shelters and put up for adoption.

Sources: New York Post, Today / Featured Image: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA Photo Library / Embedded Images: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/AP/Ima via Today 

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