Woman charters a plane exclusively to rescue 300 dogs, cats

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In an executive order signed Wednesday, Gov. Eric Greitens directed the adjutant general to activate soldiers as part of a request from the U.S. Virgin Islands for aid. Almost 400 dogs and cats were flown to Hampton Roads Thursday night.

"This is a Herculean effort to save these animals", Gear told Virginia Beach TV news station WAVY 10.

"They all seem happy", said Chris Sjolund, manager of animal rescue Hope for Life, which often works with Island Dog Rescue. She had originally planned to fly to about 20 animals to the continental US each day over a week after Hurricane Irma, but after the news of Hurricane Maria broke, her plans had to change. The chartered flight alone cost $112,000 and all of the carriers cost $5,000. "I'm exhausted emotionally, physically - but spiritually, I'm not", she told The Virginian-Pilot. "People have moved heaven and earth to make this happen". So now, she's helping those who are helpless. The animals landed safely in Norfolk, Virginia, around 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

Before and after the storm hit, Gear and a few friends worked to arrange for the animals to come to the states.

For more information on how to adopt an animal, you can contact Island Dog Rescue.

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The pets were most likely experiencing some degree of trauma when they arrived: They'd been in cages since the storm hit, and many had lost their family members in the hurricane. 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.

The animals were brought to Sali's ranch, where they eagerly wagged their tails and gave kisses to volunteers.

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

"We're going to go back as soon as we're able to help our neighbors out, help the people out that we need to, probably get back help house people if we need to, whatever it takes", he says.

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