(STRAY ANIMALS/ANIMAL RESCUE) Nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a new, definitive study determined nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the wake of the storm–a drastically higher total than the previous official death toll of 64.

Without electricity, internet, and even running water for several weeks, the country transformed into “an island of strays,” as one resident describes.

Puerto Rico’s high number of stray dogs and cats was already an issue prior to the catastrophic storm, but given its long-term impacts, an estimated 300,000 people moved away, with many leaving their pets behind.

Read on to learn how one man’s personal account of living through a catastrophic storm like Hurricane Maria has given him new insight into the lives of stray animals–proving that all it takes is one person to save a life. — Global Animal

Rescue Levi who was hit by a car on December 30th, 2017, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Photo Credit: Consumers Advocate

Consumers Advocate, Scott Smith

On September 20, 2017, an enormous hurricane pummeled Puerto Rico and devastated much of the island.

I come from New York and was living there on 9/11—and I was struck by the similarities between that tragedy and Hurricane Maria. In both situations, I went to bed in one life and woke up in another.

But Hurricane Maria also got me thinking about stray dogs and cats and what they go through every day.

Let me explain.

When Maria’s winds died down, Puerto Rico was without electricity, internet service, and in many parts of the island, running water. Communications were down. Things I’d taken for granted like food, water, and medical care became luxuries that were hard to come by. Most stores were closed and the ones that weren’t only accepted cash. But the banking system was offline and no one could get cash. It was a situation reminiscent of the Great Depression, when people with money in the bank couldn’t withdraw and spend it and the whole economy ground to a halt.

Streets that were once well lit and safe became dark and dangerous. There was looting. There were random acts of violence. Many people had to sleep with one eye open—if they got any sleep at all. The situation became so dangerous that the governor was compelled to proclaim an island-wide dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Just days after the storm, I was waiting in a long line at a grocery store, hoping that it wouldn’t run out of food and that I’d have enough cash to get what I needed for my family. And I had a revelation: this is how homeless dogs and cats live every day. They lead precarious lives. They go days without adequate food and water. They don’t get medical care. They’re in constant danger and have to be watchful to the point of paranoia.

I was living like that now. So were nearly three million Puerto Ricans. We had become an island of strays.

Read the full Consumers Advocate article, here: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/features/hurricane-maria-a-personal-story