Local animal rescue volunteer buoyed by community support

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SCAR founder Bonnie Lukas (right) greets Hoffman at the gate of the rescue center in the mountains of Villalba.

SCAR founder Bonnie Lukas (right) greets Hoffman at the gate of the rescue center in the mountains of Villalba.

Kayla Hoffman’s love of animals and desire to help a friend in Puerto Rico have been supported by the kindness of the Canton community. Hoffman has spent the last few months helping the efforts of her good friend on the island, a woman who rescues dogs and took in many strays and abandoned canines after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in late September. Canton residents responded with dozens of items to help the animals transition to new homes on the mainland.

Originally from Minnesota, Hoffman moved to Canton about 10 years ago. She began to spend a lot of time in Puerto Rico five years ago and was able to reconnect with a good friend, Bonnie Lukas. Lukas began to rescue animals 20 years ago and is the owner and founder of the Second Chance Animal Rescue of Puerto Rico (SCAR).

“The stray animal population has been a problem for years,” Hoffman said. “[Lukas] started taking care of animals. She actually houses all of her rescues in her house or carport. She really is one of the strongest rescues in Puerto Rico.”

Sato Heart Rescue of Milford, New Hampshire is a ‘sister’ rescue organization.

Lukas’s home is in the mountains of Villalba, Puerto Rico. As the storm approached, she began to take in more dogs, ultimately housing 152 dogs in separate crates in her home.

“After Hurricane Maria hit, we were unable to get to her,” Hoffman said. “For the first couple of weeks, we had no contact with her.”

Hoffman started a GoFundMe page and was able to collect a number of supplies for Lukas, including Coleman lanterns, batteries, bug spray, and canned vegetables. Since the roads in the mountains were blocked, early deliveries of supplies were made by a helicopter, which dropped them to Lukas from the air.

She also posted information about Lukas and SCAR on the Everything Canton Facebook page, asking people for donations for the dogs. Lukas sends dogs via airplane to Boston to be adopted into forever homes in New England through Sato Heart Rescue. The dogs she sends have been vaccinated and follow strict quarantine procedures before they are available for adoption. Through Facebook, Hoffman asked people to send things the dogs would need for a climate that is colder than the one they have known.

Hoffman became emotional when talking about the response to her posts, which led to donations of 70 sweaters and coats, blankets, and animal crates. “I was blown away,” she said through tears. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers in our community. It was absolutely awesome.”

As soon as she could, she traveled to Villalba to bring everything to the dogs and to spend time supporting Lukas. She returned to Boston with one dog, which traveled with her in the plane’s main cabin. The dog was then taken to New Hampshire to be adopted.

Hoffman explained that many people have left Puerto Rico and relocated to the mainland for a variety of reasons. Some of these people have left their dogs on the island. Rescue groups originally planned to send hundreds of dogs to the mainland to be adopted, but it did not work out. Airline restrictions, along with laws around dog adoptions in different parts of the mainland, have led to members of rescue organizations working with individual airlines to deal with transportation issues.

“To get these animals off the island is a tricky process that requires time and effort,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman is grateful for the donations for the dogs and is again requesting the help of the public. “What we really need is to raise money for a spay and neuter program as well as to pay for the shipments (of the dogs),” she said.

To donate to SCAR, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, go to www.scarpr.org.

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