Animal shelter

Marion County Animal Shelter received 36 cats rescued from Puerto Rico

Rosemarie Ramos Vidal emerged from her home in Puerto Rico as cleanup crews cleared the streets after Category 5 hurricane Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Beyond the devastation of the landscape by the hurricane, she became concerned when she heard one of the men shouting that he had found a small cat in the middle of the road while clearing the debris.

A cat lover who had already taken in cats from the streets and a friend who could no longer take care of them, she went on the road to investigate.

“So I just came down, and one of the guys already had it in their hands, and I said, ‘Give it to me. I will take care of her,” Ramos Vidal said.

From then on, she continued to take home cats abandoned by the hurricane, until she cared for over 30 strays.

Several years later, in 2020, she had to move and she couldn’t find any animal shelter that would take the animals.

Finally, at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, after more than a year of logistical planning, a flight to New York and a van ride to Ohio, 36 cats arrived in Marion at Homeless to Home Animal Rescue & Cat Sanctuary.

The Sato Project, a disaster relief organization dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned animals in Puerto Rico, flew the cats to New York in a private plane. They were then taken in by the non-profit pet transportation organization, Imagine Home, Inc., who rented a van to drive them to Ohio.

Homeless to Home director and founder Jeanine Tarantino said after a year of waiting, she heard from the Sato project team that she would be getting the cats.

“All of a sudden, a month and a half ago, they were like, ‘Okay, we have flight arrangements,'” she said.

Feeling overwhelmed with logistics, Tarantino said she received immense help from Mandy Nottingham, a volunteer who is great at planning trips as she works as a flight attendant at Delta.

Late Saturday night, Tarantino said a team of volunteers gathered at Homeless to Home – a haven, a sanctuary and a sanctuary. She noted that “not all of them are night owls”, but they still helped.

One volunteer, Mark Vicars, joked that he normally helps out on Sunday mornings, but usually not this early.

“It went really well,” he said.

“They arrived exactly on time as they said and helped us unload everything and hang around a bit, then we moved them all inside and started to drive them home.”

The vicars said when they first arrived many of the cats seemed nervous, but when he stopped on Thursday afternoon they were already much more relaxed and at home.

Tarantino explained that once the animals are fully adjusted, they will be available for adoption.

“We will install them. We will get to know them. Eventually, once they get acclimated to us, they will run free in the shelter like all other cats, but eventually we will start placing them for adoption,” she said.

Ramos Vidal said words cannot describe how grateful the Sato Project and Homeless to Home are because there are so many people who have had up to 50 animals in their homes since the hurricane and have zero where to send them.

“Gratitude is the word, but it’s just beyond that,” she said.

“I had many, many people who said no and were very, very, very rude to me. Here are people who said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take them.’ She (Tarantino) didn’t even ask how, she just said, “Yeah, I’ll take them. How do you put that into words. There are no words for that.”

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 [email protected]