Just after 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, a jet parked in a hangar at a New Jersey airport with a very special delivery on board — 60 homeless dogs from an animal shelter in San Antonio, Texas.
The canines were flown north so they could move into St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, and several other Northeast shelters, and make room for the the scores of pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
“The feeling when you hear the plane land and pull into the hangar — my heart swelled when I heard those dogs barking. It’s so incredibly meaningful for all of us,” Heather Cammisa, president and CEO of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center tells PEOPLE.
The first dog to deplane was Roscoe, a spirited black and white pup who ran straight for Cammisa.
“That dog,” she says, “just hugged me.”
St. Hubert’s and the Humane Society of the United States took the lead in organizing the flight once Hurricane Harvey started to develop.
The journey began Tuesday, when the dogs from the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services boarded the plane. All of the dogs had already been in the shelter before Harvey struck, notes Cammisa.
After refueling in Tennessee, the dogs landed at the Morristown Airport in New Jersey.
In addition to St. Hubert’s, seven other rescues that regularly partner with the nonprofit have opened their doors to the dogs.
Says Cammisa: “It was a very special evening.”
After the flight, all the dogs received a good night’s sleep on raised beds, with fresh, soft bedding and toys.
St. Hubert’s is already signed up for another delivery; Camissa doesn’t know when that will be but it could be as early as this weekend.
Flights from Texas are also expected to bring dogs to rescues in Denver and Minneapolis, she says.
“This is going to be an ongoing need, as efforts turn from immediate rescue to how do those people (displaced by the hurricane) keep their dogs and cats,” Cammisa says. “Housing down there has been devastated.”
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The first flight of furry refugees are now being prepped for adoption.
Most of the dogs are under two, and medium to large in size — the biggest weighing 88 pounds — with one exception being Nancy the pregnant Chihuahua.
Many of the canines need to be spayed or neutered, and the earliest they will be available for adoption is this weekend. (The latest information on the dogs, their adoptions and how you can help other homeless pets affected by Harvey can be found here.)
Other New Jersey rescues and shelters who have taken in the dogs include: Monmouth County SPCA, Animal Welfare Association, Father John’s Animal House, Somerset Regional Animal Shelter and the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter.