Puerto Rican Evacuees from Hurricane Maria Forced to Leave Their Pets

Posted by Jason Sarna
shelter dogs

A federal embargo has forced Puerto Rican pet owners to leave behind an estimated 2,000 animals.

MSN reports that the majority of airlines leaving San Juan are prohibiting families to travel with their pets larger than 20 pounds.

According to Sylvie Bedrosian, president of Pet Friendly Puerto Rico, this is because federal authorities have taken custody of cargo compartments in order to transport supplies.

Bedrosian says the embargo violates the No Pet Left Behind FEMA Act put in place after Hurricane Katrina that "authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency."

Bedrosian said:

"I understand that most planes coming from the U.S. to Puerto Rico are filled with goods, but what bothers me most is that planes leaving the island are mostly empty. Why take custody of an empty cargo?" 

Due to the embargo, private companies like United PetSafe - a business that offers animal transport from San Juan to the U.S. - are uncertain when they will resume their services.

JetBlue and Southwest have modified their pet policy to permit up to eight pets on board, but Bedrosian says that's not enough because not all pets weigh less than 20 pounds. According to MSN, American Airlines did not respond to a request for comment, and a United Airlines employee said the embargo was waived for them until the end of October.

"I don't know how they are bypassing the federal embargo," Bedrosian said. "They are the only ones letting pets on cargo."


While pet owners are heartbroken over having to leave their pets behind, pet organizations like Save a Sato, which saves homeless dogs, can barely function.

"Our animal shelters were already at full capacity before the hurricane and now beginning to feel the burden that María left behind," Bedrosian said. "Our rescue missions have completely changed. We used to wonder for abandoned pets on the streets and now have to worry about those left on the airports."

What would you do if you were in this situation? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Puerto Rican Evacuees from Hurricane Maria Forced to Leave Their Pets