NORTH BROOKFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Second Chance Animal Shelter, a partner of ASPCA has helped rescue cats from Hurricane Ian in Florida, but airport closures delayed more from being received.

The closure of airports has been a contributing factor to more animals not being able to get out. Due to the airports needing to be open for ASPCA to get their planes in Florida. “We’ll take as many as we can, we’ve already been committed to taking as many as we possibly could get in on a regular basis until things get under control,” explained Sheryl Blancato, Second Chance Animal Shelter CEO, and Founder. “We’ll get them processed as quickly as possible. As long as our connections are strong.”

Blancato has been keeping in touch with ASPCA staff working in the Florida area. She says they are working on getting more emergency waivers since for transport you need to have vet exams and health certifications, but there has been a delayed process. However, in terms of evacuation, she is hoping everything moves quickly.

The ASPCA provides the transportation, while the Second Chance Animal Shelter provides the care and an emergency placement partner. A total of 10 cats were recently sent to the Second Chance Animal Shelter, but about 40 cats in all were sent across the state. “We were hoping to get a lot more in, but unfortunately an emergency waiver was not granted but had the capacity to take in at least 50,” said Blancato.

Blancato shared what it means to see these cats be rescued from Florida. “It means a lot, I’ve worked on the ground during Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and many others and the devastation is just insane. It’s very hard for the animals, in this case, we needed to get animals out of the shelters there, so that the people that often care for them can also get out, the animals can get out, and then they can get back into the shelters,” said Blancato. “Afterwards be able to take animals that are displaced from the community. Animals may have sometimes been with their owners and the house gets destroyed and the animal and the pet get separated. So it’s very important to keep these shelters open and available.” After Hurricane Katrina, the PETS Act law passed, to help animals in shelters in times of emergency.

The state mandated a 48-hour quarantine, which the cats had already been released from. Each cat was checked over by a veterinarian, making sure they were all clear for adoption, and then put onto the adoption floor. If they needed to be spayed or neutered that was also taken care of, along with updated vaccines. “We expect them to get adopted pretty quickly, people are already calling for them, so we are hoping they get in their forever homes pretty quick,” expressed Blancato. The North Brookfield Second Chance Animal Shelter does about 1,700 adoptions and helps over 40,000 animals each year.

Blancato expressed her thoughts on Hurricane Ian. “I’m very worried, the visual pictures I’ve seen, especially from the area we took these animals, are complete devastation. I don’t know the condition of the shelter these cats came from and I don’t know what their needs are,” she said. “We expect we are going to need to take more emergency evacuation kitties out pretty quickly, just to keep up with what is going on there.”

Blanco expects more animals to come in once planes are able to travel into Florida, even those with injuries, but will take longer for them to arrive. As of now, volunteers are currently coming into the adoption center to help take care of the current cats that are in the shelter, twice a day by feeding, cleaning, and playing with them. The organization has over 275 volunteers. Depending on the need, these volunteers could be sent out to Florida to help assist with the care of the animals before being evacuated.