29 Formerly 'Traumatized' Rescue Dogs Get a 'Second Life' Thanks to Charity Flight (Exclusive)

Over two dozen dogs saved from the streets of Antigua by Dogs & Cats of Antigua arrived in the U.S. on May 7 with help from Flew the Coop

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Rescue dogs on charity flight from Antigua to the U.S. (left) and Mr. Magoo the dog with a volunteer in Miami

Flew The Coop

Rescue dogs on charity flight from Antigua to the U.S. (left) and Mr. Magoo the dog with a volunteer in Miami
  • Dogs & Cats of Antigua and Flew the Coop partnered together on a May 7 rescue flight that transported 29 dogs from Antigua to the U.S.

  • The 29 dogs on the flight were rescue pets saved from the streets of Antigua by Dogs & Cats of Antigua

  • Many of the dogs on the rescue flight are now available for adoption at animal rescues in the U.S.

Twenty-nine dogs who faced the threats of poison, malnourishment, and abuse are on their way to forever homes after taking a charity flight from Antigua to the U.S.

On May 7, the rescue pets took a chartered flight from Antigua— part of the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda — to Miami. In Florida, many of the pets were picked up by volunteers. These animal lovers drove the cats and dogs to rescues on the East Coast of the U.S. All of the pets had guaranteed homes at U.S. rescues before departing Antigua. Now, these rescues are working to find forever homes for each animal.

The charity flight was made possible by a partnership between Flew The Coop — a nonprofit organization part of the Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) — and Dogs & Cats of Antigua (DACOA), a nonprofit based in Antigua that is committed to addressing the island's pet overpopulation issue.

Flew The Coop often helps animals in crisis during disasters. While there were "no natural disasters" in Antigua when Flew the Coop and DACOA started working together, the island's animals "were in a disaster zone all the same," Joy Farrell, the founder and executive director of DACOA, tells PEOPLE.

"I find it's a beautiful island, but when it comes to animals, it's an absolute crisis zone," she continues, adding, "We have a dog and cat population spiraling out of control. On a daily basis, it gets worse. We have a community of people that feel it's okay to poison dogs, dogs starving in plain sight, pets tied up on chains in yards with no food, no shelter, no water."

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Rescue dogs preparing for charity flight in Antigua

Flew The Coop

Rescue dogs preparing for charity flight in Antigua

Since 2015, Farrell has worked to save as many animals as she can, with help from volunteers. DACOA rescues abused animals from the streets of Antigua and helps them become happy, healthy pets ready for adoption. Charity flights like the one with Flew the Coop on May 7 allow DACOA to get their rescue animals into forever homes.

Flew the Coop — named after founder Chris Harding's dog, Cooper — got involved in the rescue mission through Harding's curiosity. Harding owns Hodges Bay, a resort in Antigua, and was looking for a way to give back to the community through Flew the Coop.

"During one of my trips to the resort in Antigua, I made the journey over to meet Joy, see the facility, and spend some time with her. And obviously, instantly, we had a connection because I'm a high-energy, optimistic, enthusiastic kind of person, and so is Joy," Harding says.

Soon after the meeting, Harding and Farrell started arranging a rescue flight to help as many of DACOA's animal residents as possible. The dogs selected for the flight were pups with up-to-date vaccinations and in good health.

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Founder of Flew the Coop, Chris Harding, and his dog Cooper

Flew The Coop

Founder of Flew the Coop, Chris Harding, and his dog Cooper

"We do everything we possibly can to make sure that these dogs are ready, from a veterinary standpoint, for travel because we want to send out puppies that are healthy and happy," Farrell says.

Related: 3 Bernedoodle Puppies Saved After Owner Leaves Dogs in Hot Car to Dine at Disney Springs

While DACOA's rescue flight pets depart from Antigua in good health, they rarely arrive at the nonprofit that way.

"The pets we pick up have been traumatized; they're malnourished and have all kinds of problems. Several of the dogs on this airlift came from those types of situations," Farrell says.

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Suzie the rescue dog

Flew The Coop

Suzie the rescue dog

Three dogs on the rescue flight came from particularly heartbreaking beginnings. Suzie is a two-year-old paraplegic dog who was found in a gutter by DACOA. The canine had been hit by a car and left for dead. Today, the pooch is looking for an adopter at Vintage Pet Rescue in Rhode Island.

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Another pup on the flight is Stilts. In Antigua, Stilts suffered from malnourishment most of his life, which led to rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones. DACOA rescued the canine and got him "back into shape." Stilts is now at the Westchester SPCA waiting for a home.

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Stilts the rescue dog

Flew The Coop

Stilts the rescue dog

Finally, Mr. Magoo is another rescue flight dog with a sad start. DACOA found the dog wandering on a busy highway.

"Not only did he have scabies, he was malnourished. His eyes were shut; they were glued shut. He had some sort of eye infection. So the poor pup didn't even realize he was on a busy highway," Farrell says, adding that "after about six weeks" of care at DACOA, "Mr. Magoo became a gorgeous little charmer."

The dogs from the rescue flight are available for adoption at Animal Haven, the Westchester SPCA, Big Dog Ranch Rescue, Reba's Rescues, and Vintage Pet Rescue.

<p>Flew The Coop</p> Mr. Magoo the rescue dog

Flew The Coop

Mr. Magoo the rescue dog

"We're so proud that we can take pups like these and give them a chance at a second life. And that's what Flew the Coop enables us to do. Without them, it would be a lot more difficult, and we wouldn't be able to send out as many dogs. These little guys we've picked up deserve this," Farrell says.

For animal lovers who cannot give one of these pets a home but are still interested in helping, Harding says, "The easiest and quickest thing to do is a simple donation at flewthecoop.org, with proceeds going to Joy. The more money that comes in, the more good she can do on the island."

Related: Malnourished Puppy Abandoned in a Portable Toilet Acts Like a 'Wiggly Angel' After His Rescue

"There's a tremendous need on the island, and Joy is doing everything that she can to make it a better spot for these animals," he adds.

Farrell also encourages pet parents, especially those who have visited Antigua, to contact Antigua's government "to complain about the way animals are treated and to push for law enforcement to protect the animals."

"That's having a real effect because tourism, that's our economy," she says.

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