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The coronavirus outbreak has not only affected people and businesses around the world: It’s also put some pets at risk of not finding a home.
With airlines cutting routes from countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases, New York-based pet rescue groups that bring dogs from abroad to be adopted here say they’ve been hit hard.
Organizations like Astoria’s Korean K9 Rescue and Wagging Tails Dog Rescue in Westchester rely heavily on volunteers to transport dogs from South Korea to the U.S. But since the virus began spreading in China, there’s been a dramatic shortage of both flights and volunteers.
“We’re trying to hold on through the crisis that’s going on and try to make it through to where something stabilizes and things get back on track,” said Gina Boehler, the founder of Korean K9 Rescue, a nonprofit that saves dogs from the meat trade and high-kill shelters.
“If we’re not able to take in dogs we’re not able to help them… Their fate is uncertain.”
‘Desperate Need of Help’
Jeffrey Beri said he has been in quarantine for weeks with about 200 dogs at the Beijing location of No Dogs Left Behind, the nonprofit he founded four years ago to save canines from slaughterhouses and to fight illegal poaching.
Prior to the virus, he said he was flying up to 50 dogs to the U.S. each month, taking them to rescues like the Long Island-based Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation.
But everything is at a standstill. That means 75 dogs who already have homes reserved in the U.S. wait while his expenses for caring for the canines is compounding.
“At this point right now in China, there is no possible way to transport any animals,” Beri said. “We are in desperate need of help.”
Beri, who shuttles between the U.S. and China, said he felt extreme trepidation prior to returning to Beijing nearly two months ago.
“I made my will before I came here,” he said. “You just can’t think it can’t happen to you.”
Jamie Prospero, the founder of Wagging Tails Dog Rescue, said she is usually in constant contact with a handful of dog rescuers in South Korea. But for weeks, she’s heard nothing.
“I feel bad for them over there,” Prospero added. “They’re being left on the streets in a situation that they’re in to die, get killed. Or they’ll end up in a shelter, or they’ll be euthanized.”
Watching and Hoping
Officials at other rescue operations in New York City such as Bideawee — a no-kill pet welfare organization that conducts international adoptions after natural disasters and on a case-by-case basis — said they have not experienced a slowdown in adoptions.
But Leslie Granger, the president and CEO of Bideawee, said she’s keeping a careful eye out for potential changes.
“We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis both locally and in the areas where we bring transports in from,” Granger said.
Julie Sinaw, the president of Animal Lighthouse Rescue, which specializes in saving abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico, said she is bracing for a tough future.
“If flights are shut down within the U.S., our whole rescue operation would be on hold. As a result, many dogs would die on the streets as we wouldn’t be able to save them,” Sinaw said. “We just hope that this does not happen.”
At least two airlines have already announced cuts to some domestic flights in response to the spread of the virus.
There is one reported case of a dog in Hong Kong that contracted coronavirus, likely from a human. Authorities have said that the dog is in quarantine, but is not sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is “no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
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