A joint effort by ABA and Puerto Rico Bar Association (PRBA) lawyers made a difference for shelter dogs and cats affected by the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, only two weeks after Hurricane Irma had struck the island. Evacuation orders were issued, and the safety of people and families, including their pets, was of utmost concern.
After the storm, leaders of the TIPS Animal Law Committee (ALC) heard that the PRBA Special Commission on Animal Rights was planning a pet food drive to deliver food to companion animal shelters that had been affected by the storm. The ALC has a longstanding relationship with lawyers and animal advocates in Puerto Rico dating back to the TIPS Spring Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2010. Longstanding TIPS members will remember that one of the important outcomes of that meeting was that ALC and TIPS Council member Joan Schaffner found a homeless and injured dog on the street and rescued him. ALC members in attendance, with the special assistance of Edi Vazquez, president of All Sato Rescue, helped secure veterinary services and a home for the dog until he could fly to the mainland, where he was adopted by TIPS Revenue Officer Jay Young. “Rico” continues to enjoy a pampered life with Jay and his family!
ALC leaders were at the 2017 TIPS Fall Leadership Meeting in Key Biscayne when they heard about the PRBA pet food drive. ALC Chair Daina Bray reached out to Shakira Santiago Rodríguez, chair of the PRBA Special Commission on Animal Rights. Despite connectivity challenges, they quickly hatched a plan to work together. With support and encouragement from TIPS Chair Holly Polglase and quick thinking and support from TIPS staff members, TIPS quickly raised nearly $600 in donations from TIPS's leadership in attendance in Key Biscayne. Following that up with an online effort, the ALC collected a total of $2,600 that the PRBA used to purchase dog and cat food. Santiago organized food deliveries to shelters in western and central Puerto Rico on October 22 and November 11, 2017, respectively. Together with donations raised by the PRBA in Puerto Rico, the PRBA delivered more than 5,000 pounds of food.
The ALC was inspired by their interactions with Santiago, who organized this effort while she and her family were themselves dealing with the after effects of the storms. Santiago greatly appreciated the support from TIPS at a difficult time. “We are profoundly grateful for all the support displayed by TIPS from the first day,” she said. “We value all the efforts you and your team made to help us. I look forward to working with you and the Animal Law Committee on many initiatives.”