During the course of our work to support and assist shelters across Puerto Rico and the island of Vieques, the Humane Society of the United States has heard countless stories of people struggling to take their pets with them as they leave the island. It is unthinkable to us that families who have already lost everything must also face the prospect of leaving behind their beloved family members. There have been some sources of hope -- individuals have reported sporadically being able to bring larger pets along with them in airline cabins, and some airlines have waived fees for a limited time frame, including Jet Blue, which has waived pet fees until Nov. 15 and Delta ,which has waived pet fees through Oct. 16. It is our understanding that Royal Caribbean has also allowed small animals to sail with families being evacuated on its ships. While we are pleased to hear about some exceptions being made, because they have been inconsistent, pet owners have been unable to rely on them. And for families with multiple pets or medium to large size dogs that cannot fly in-cabin, the prospects have been dismal.

We are heartened to hear that as of Oct. 12, United Airlines has resumed its PetSafe transport program to provide an opportunity for pet owners to keep their families intact. However, space on these flights may be limited. Any pet owner considering leaving Puerto Rico with their pets may want to contact United immediately to reserve space by calling 1-800-575-3335 (U.S.)  +1-832-235-1541 (Int’l). Certain states have also taken steps to make leaving with Puerto Rico easier; for example, Florida has suspended import paperwork requirements for Puerto Ricans traveling with pets (for more information, please call the Florida department of agriculture at 1-800-HELP-FLA).

We applaud these efforts. However, they alone will not be enough to ensure that families already victims of a devastating storm aren’t further victimized. The HSUS calls on every airline, as well as any and all other potential carriers, to eliminate size, cost or other barriers that prevent people leaving Puerto Rico from traveling with their four-legged family members. The number of people trying to fly out of San Juan with their pets is estimated to have more than quadrupled, and for many of these people, their pets are all they have left. It is the humane thing to do.

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