More than 40 cats and dogs evacuated from shelters in areas ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Harvey will arrive in Westbrook this week, and will soon be placed in new homes in Maine.

The first of the animals – 23 cats and seven dogs – arrived at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland early Thursday morning, two days after they were evacuated from the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Friday, more than 20 cats and dogs will come to the shelter from a rescue operation in Mississippi that is supporting efforts to relocate animals in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Two other rescue organizations, the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk and Portland-based Buddy Up Animal Society, are taking in dogs and cats from Southern shelters that need to make room for animals that have been surrendered, abandoned or found following the hurricanes.

All of the animals brought to Maine will be available for adoption following quarantine periods varying from several days to two weeks.

Jeana Roth, director of community engagement for the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, said the cats and dogs were flown Tuesday from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, where all animal shelters were evacuated following Hurricane Irma. More than 300 animals were flown this week from the islands to Virginia.

“They were just demolished by Irma,” Roth said of the islands and the shelters there.

The dogs and cats from the U.S. Virgin Islands will not be available for adoption until after a two-week quarantine mandated by state law. The animals from Mississippi will be in foster care for one to two weeks before they are adoptable. In the meantime, the shelter is encouraging people to consider pets already cleared for adoption.

“We need support for adoption right now,” Roth said. “The more animals that leave our center this week, the more we can take in.”

‘A DOMINO EFFECT’

Kerrie LeClair, director of development for the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, said the shelter received its first transport of animals from Southern shelters this week. The Kennebunk facility is working with shelters in Southern states, including Georgia and South Carolina, to clear shelters of animals that were already in the system before the hurricanes hit Texas and Florida.

“We’re bringing up as many animals from their areas as we can so the animals in Texas and Florida can go to those shelters,” LeClair said. “It’s kind of a domino effect across the country.”

Buddy Up Animal Society, a nonprofit with a network of foster homes in southern Maine, is expecting a group of eight dogs to arrive in Maine late next week. The dogs, many with medical issues, come from shelters in Texas that need to make room for dogs affected by Hurricane Harvey, said Buddy Up founder Chrissie Emmons.

The dogs will have been quarantined for two weeks before arriving in Portland. They will stay in quarantine for a few days with Maine foster families before they are put up for adoption, she said.

Buddy Up currently is working with one dog found abandoned and shot in Houston immediately after the hurricane. After Gunnar Huddleston, a black pit bull, was found with a gunshot wound, he was released to the care of Buddy Up so he could receive the advanced medical care he needs. Gunnar is battling an infection in his back and neck from buckshot, as well as shattered vertebrae.

Emmons said Gunnar is not in pain, but he will never walk again because of the damage from the gunshot. If he survives and his owner is not located, Gunnar could come to Maine to be adopted. Buddy Up is working with local authorities who are trying to determine who shot Gunnar and if he has an owner who is trying to find him, she said.

Both the Animal Refuge League and Buddy Up Animal Society also will likely receive animals from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma, and then was left without power after Hurricane Maria devastasted the island Wednesday. Roth said the Westbrook shelter had anticipated taking in dogs from the Puerto Rican rescue group All Sato Rescue, but is currently on standby to help in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: @grahamgillian