About 100 cats and kittens were airlifted out of Florida to Delaware on Monday, an effort to make room in shelters for animals displaced by Hurricane Michael.
The Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals teamed up with the Jacksonville Humane Society to relocate the cats to shelters in Delaware and suburban Philadelphia, and possibly elsewhere in the Northeast.
"It's always hard to say goodbye to the animals that you raised and nurtured and took care of," Jacksonville Humane Society CEO Denise Deisler told WJXT-TV. "But they're going to a really good place at Brandywine Valley in Delaware, and we're so grateful to have them."
The cats, on a flight paid for by Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive tackle Malik Jackson's foundation "Malik's Gifts," landed Monday afternoon at a private terminal in New Castle.
The animals were taken to the Brandywine Valley SPCA's rescue and rehab center in Georgetown to be evaluated and will eventually transfer out to a variety of shelters.
The idea is to make room in the Florida shelters so animals displaced by the hurricane can stay near their homes and hopefully be reunited with their families, said Brandywine Valley SPCA spokeswoman Linda Torelli.
"We learned back in Katrina not to take family pets out of the area," she said, noting how hard it was to reunite animals with their owners once they were out of state.
Half of the cats on the flight were from the Jacksonville shelter, the other half were from the Alachua County Humane Society, which received cats evacuated from areas that were in Michael's path in advance of the storm, as well as cats from a shelter that lost power during the storm, according to a statement by the Jacksonville Humane Society.
Space was tight at the Jacksonville Humane Society before the storm hit. Last week, the shelter stopped taking in strays and surrenders to make room for animals from shelters in the Panhandle, according to WJXT-TV. They even held a free adoption event over the weekend to free up space.
It's the second time in a month that the Brandywine Valley SPCA has helped animals impacted by storms.
In September, they took 239 animals fleeing Hurricane Florence.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.