Over 300 pets rescued from hurricane-ravaged US Virgin Islands

The pets trapped on the post-Irma, pre-Maria, hurricane-rocked U.S. Virgin Islands were flown to the safety of the mainland Monday.

Pets from all three of the U.S. Virgin Islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix - were rescued after Hurricane Irma tore through the region but before Maria made landfall by Virginia Beach's Island Dog Rescue co-founder, Sali Gear.

Gear grew up on the Caribbean islands and planned to fly 20 animals to the States each day for a week after Irma hit but decided to escalate her plan once Maria barreled into the picture. She then chartered a private plane to bring over 300 animals that were either abandoned or offered up by their owners to Norfolk, Va. on Monday.

Pets, animals ride out Hurricane Irma

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Pets, animals ride out Hurricane Irma
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Pets, animals ride out Hurricane Irma
Ivelisse Soto prepares carying crates for her dogs, Tinzy and Looney, outside Lakeside Elementary School hurricane shelter, which allows pets, in Pembroke Pines, Fla., as powerful Hurricane Irma heads toward Florida on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A Cuban carrying his pet wades through a flooded street in Havana, on September 10, 2017. Deadly Hurricane Irma battered central Cuba on Saturday, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and ripping the roofs off homes as it headed towards Florida. Authorities said they had evacuated more than a million people as a precaution, including about 4,000 in the capital. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Laureen Cikora evacuates her RV in Davie, Fla., with her dog, Spice, to a hurricane shelter that allows pets as powerful Hurricane Irma heads toward Florida on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
LUTZ, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: With the sky above him turning grey and the wind picking up, Ed Questell makes his way into an evacuation shelter at McKitrick Elementary School with his four pet birds as area residents evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma on September 09, 2017 in Lutz, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Residents carry their pets and belongings into a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma in Estero, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A 13 days-old pet pig gets its daily ration of milk before being taken to another house due to the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Army National Guard Spc. Thomas Hogan rescues a dog from a flooded suburb of Orlando in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"This is a Herculean effort to save these animals," Gear told Virginia Beach TV news station WAVY 10. "So when I watched Irma build up, I called the shelters ahead of time and said, 'Hey, I'm here for you.'"

Boats picked up dogs and cats and brought them to St. Thomas from the other islands in anticipation of the furry friends' flight. Volunteers who responded to her rescue group's Facebook post for help gathered up $112,000 in donations and Gear's own money to pay for the jet, the Virginian Pilot reported. Upon arrival, the pets were taken to Gear's farm, nearby shelters, new families or by other rescue organization.

"I did it because it had to be done," Gear told the Virginian Pilot. "People have moved heaven and earth to make this happen."

The animals were taken out of a truly disastrous situation on the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Irma killed at least three people and electricity is expected to be out for months. Gear learned that on Wednesday, one of the shelters that she emptied with her rescue mission was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

"The puppy room and cat room are completely gone," Gear said the shelter's manager said.

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