During the COVID-19 crisis, lack of air travel and widespread travel restrictions halted pet rescue missions, which has led to overcrowding in numerous animal shelters. Generally, international tourism plays a critical role in supporting abandoned animals as tourists tend to adopt pets while on holiday abroad. However, with the unprecedented slowdown in travel, many communities have had to cope with a surplus of unadopted animals and overcrowded shelters, particularly in island states that rely heavily on air transport as a vital lifeline to the mainland.
The COVID-19 restrictions also hindered cross-border pet rescue missions that would otherwise be responsible for alleviating local shelters. Such operations depend on air travel, as well as support from business travellers who volunteer to transport animals while visiting different countries.
In certain locations, there was an uptick in animal adoptions as people increasingly worked from home throughout the year. However, other regions saw a simultaneous rise in abandoned pets in response to financial difficulties experienced by many individuals. Air transport bridges the gap between these two worlds, ensuring there is enough supply to meet high demand in different regions.
Without this source of transportation, various pet transfer programmes have been suspended for months, which has prevented animals from being carried from island states. In the absence of this option, pet rescue organisations have relied on local foster families to care for these animals.
The move to airlift supplies to shelters in the Pacific and transport 600 abandoned animals on a charter flight from Hawaii comes as a huge welcome for these shelters and increases the likelihood of these animals finding homes in the US.