A charter plane filled with displaced people, and some four legged refugees, from hurricane-hit British Virgin Islands touched down in the Cayman Islands Wednesday night.
Seats were removed from the passenger aircraft to make room for pets in crates. A total of eight people, seven dogs and six cats arrived safely in Grand Cayman just after 6 p.m.
The new arrivals join approximately 170 residents, the majority from BVI, transferred to the Cayman Islands by businesses who have offices in both jurisdictions. The pets will be kept in quarantine until they are cleared for release by the Department of Agriculture.
Robert Briant, head of corporate at Conyers in BVI, was there to meet his family nanny Rowena and their English bulldog Sylvester.
Mr. Briant, who was evacuated to Cayman after the storm, will be joined by his spouse and their 16-month-old daughter, who are currently in New York, next week.
“We will go back to BVI, “ he said. “We don’t know how long it will take; it is going to take time to rebuild and we just want the family together in that period.”
Cayman charity Must Love Dogs helped coordinate the relief flight along with Ogier law firm.
Ogier partner Nick Burkill was on the plane, along with his dog and two cats, Muzzer, Growler and Tiggy. He said he had spent the last 10 days camping in the office with his wife and pets as they coordinated with others to put the flight together.
He said Ogier’s office had survived the storm but the main problem was housing. Many of the firm’s staff, including Mr. Burkill, saw extensive damage to their homes.
Jeremy Barkhouse had only moved to the BVI from England six months before the storm, which blew the roof off the home he was staying in with his wife and child and friends.
He said he and four others had struggled for two hours to keep the door from blowing off as the storm battered the house, ripping off part of the roof. His wife’s company arranged for the family to be transported to Grand Cayman and they have been trying to get clearance for their cats to join them ever since.
He was at the airport Wednesday night to see the cats, Sausage and Mash, arrive on the charter plane.
“They were part of the family. We had them as kittens and they are now 10 years old,” he said.
The owners must wait, however, to be reunited with their pets, which were whisked immediately to a specially created quarantine zone. The Department of Agriculture has expedited the import process but they must still go through a vetting process, which can take from a few days to several months, depending on the animals’ vaccination records. They are currently in a secure facility donated temporarily by Dart Enterprises.
Aimee McKie, of Must Love Dogs, said the DOA had been extremely accommodating to allow for the animals to be imported temporarily.
She said the charity had got involved because it recognized that people’s pets were “part of the family.”
The flight returned to BVI Thursday morning loaded with supplies, including a donation of blood for the hospital.