Billings man rescues animals displaced by hurricanes in Puerto R - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Billings man rescues animals displaced by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida

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Dave Pauli rescued five puppies from the island (Pauli) Dave Pauli rescued five puppies from the island (Pauli)

BILLINGS - Thousands of people in Puerto Rico are still trying to evacuate after hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc, but one Billings man is heading back a second time to rescue animals.

Dave Pauli, a senior adviser for the U.S. Humane Society, also answered the call to help animals in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and Florida, where Hurricane Irma made landfall.

He just returned home from Vieques, Puerto Rico and brought back much more than a souvenir.

A litter of six puppies was born the day after Hurricane Irma, Pauli said, and he brought back five of them for adoption in the U.S.

"The life they would've lived there would not have been quality, if they lived long at all," said Pauli, who recounts seeing rubble left behind in what used to be neighborhoods on the island. 

When Pauli left for Puerto Rico, his mission was to rescue animals. But he soon realized he was needed in other ways.

"There weren't any human providers there so we switched our mission to mostly human provision, part animal," said Pauli.

At most disaster scenes, Pauli distributes kibble and rabies vaccinations. But in the wake of such carnage, Pauli found himself handing out hygiene products and food.

"A lot of people had to evacuate because they had nowhere to live, so there were lots of abandoned dogs," said Pauli.

He eventually turned his focus back to the animals, rescuing horses trapped by debris and feeding hungry dogs.

"The two predominant breeds on the island are pit mixes and Chihuahuas," said Pauli.

Pauli said the litter of pups he brought home are likely a mix, and he predicts they will be shorter in stature.

He knows one thing for sure: the dogs prefer a warmer climate.

"We walked out to 27 degree air at 3 a.m.," said Pauli, describing the day he landed in Billings with the litter. "They just curled up into little balls and weren't ready for cold, but they're acclimating now and they'll do just fine."

It's a colder but safer place for these five pups, who lost their home too.

Pauli plans to check in on their mother when he returns to the island to complete unfinished work.

"I'm a disaster junkie," said Pauli. "I've been to so many over 30 years, probably 50 different events and at the end of the day, you know you've made a difference."

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