Milford Native Becomes Advocate for Hurricane Relief in Virgin Islands

A man holds a small dog as he's evacuated from the U.S. Virgin Islands by Victory Air

When Hurricane Maria took aim at the U.S. Virgin Islands last week, Sali Gear knew she had to move fast.

She now lives on a farm in Virginia Beach, where she runs Island Dog Rescue, which finds homes in the USA for abandoned Caribbean dogs.

The animals were taken out of a truly disastrous situation on the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Irma killed at least three people and electricity is expected to be out for months.

Finally, the furry refugees landed in the U.S. on Tuesday, where volunteers cared for them at Gear's farm while foster homes or relatives of their owners could be found.

And thirdly, she needed boats to get all the animals onto St Thomas for pickup by the plane.

When the dogs arrived in Norfolk around 2 a.m. Tuesday, a bright orange note on each crate said: "I survived Hurricane Irma". She has worked with Gear before to rescue dogs from the Virgin Islands.

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Gear said she hadn't slept more than four hours any night for nearly two weeks.

Fortunately, the animals Gear rescued made it off the island in the nick of time.

Some rescue groups picked the animals up at the airport to transfer them. Originally, she planned to fly groups of 20 animals gathered from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix up to the continental US every day for a week following Irma's land fall. Some of the animals Gear brought to Virginia were taken to new homes as far away as Boston and Pittsburgh, the Pilot reported.

This past weekend Gear and a group of generous donors, like the Animal Welfare Institute, got together $112,000 to charter a plane from Miami (plus $5,000 for supplies) and they organized a group of volunteers to assist with the rescue.

In addition to finding volunteers, Tinsley is organizing a pet food drive at Cape Henry Collegiate. 'But the heart of people, no I'm not surprised by how people act'.

"I have such a big passion for dogs", she said.

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