WEST GOSHEN >> The Brandywine Valley SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) on Monday welcomed 25 cats and 31 dogs rescued from Puerto Rico. The animals are part of Operation Breathing Room, a 200-animal transport organized by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to save the lives of animals at risk of euthanasia.

Linda Torelli, directer of marketing and programs at Brandywine said their organization is one of 11 shelters along the East Coast from Maryland to New York that are taking part in the program. After the flight from Puerto Rico to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the animals were transported in a custom trailer by the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue team.

“This is a first for our shelter,” Torelli said. ”The staff and volunteers are really excited.”

Torelli pointed out that all the dogs and cats are fluent in Spanish, and the new owners may have the best success training the animals by speaking to them in that language. “Strays there tend to be socialized,” she said. “They depend on humans for food.”

“Only eight percent of animals come out of shelters alive in Puerto Rico,” Torelli said. “There is a really serious animal overpopulation there; they have over 300,000 strays on the island. This program helps HSUS in the short term, clearing shelter space and in the long term, helping to make sustainable changes such as promoting neuter-spaying programs there.”

Torelli said about 37 dogs were adopted from the kennel at Brandywine this weekend during a special promotion. That gave them room to accept the dogs from Puerto Rico.

Torelli said the dogs are mixed-breed, small, and medium-sized. She said the HSUS has a good history of bringing dogs and cats from Puerto Rico. She said HSUS checks the animals in Puerto Rico. Now that they are at Brandywine, they will be given medical and behavioral assessments, spayed and neutered and given any medical treatment required.

Torelli expected that once they are ready for adoption, the animals would find homes quickly.

Coalition partners in Operation Breathing Room include the HSUS and Maddie’s Fund, which are leading the operation as part of the Humane Puerto Rico initiative; Wings of Rescue; Pittsburgh Aviation and Animal Rescue Team; GreaterGood.org, and local receiving shelters in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Florida.

Torelli said Brandywine Valley SPCA welcomes volunteers year-round to assist with the more than 9,000 stray, owner-surrendered, wayward owned, and abused and neglected animals that they help each year.

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