NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After a massive influx of pets displaced by Hurricane Ian, shelters are simply out of room.  

A group of nonprofits in Nashville are working to take adoptable animals to clear the way for stranded pets.  

“It is extremely dire in Florida right now. Not only are these shelters generally already full before the storm hit, but then now you’ve got displaced animals who were in homes a couple of days ago out and need a place to go,” said Michael Cunningham, Public Information Officer for Animal Rescue Corps. 

It’s a problem that doesn’t sit right with DeFrancesco, Founder and President of the new nonprofit Race for Life Rescue.

“These animals, when they have to make room, often are euthanized. And that’s something we just can’t deal with personally,” DeFrancesco said.  

On Monday, he and his team got to see their work come to life. They teamed up with Animal Rescue Corps and Bissell to take 40 cats from the Naples area and fly them back to Middle Tennessee. 

The cats were brought to Nashville in a private plane — a flight worth an estimated $20,000.  

“What we can do with this aircraft, we can move 100 animals at a time, we can move those animals 1,000 nautical miles, and they can be in an aircraft that’s comfortable and safe for them,” DeFrancesco said.  

While most of the cats probably don’t realize this flight saved one of their nine lives, one tabby, named Charlie, did. He got out of his crate mid-flight to thank his pilots personally. 

“I look back and I see right in the middle of the aisle this beautiful cat starting up at me. 12:31:43 I basically decided to carry him on my lap. He was a little nervous at first, but he calmed down and cuddled up,” DeFrancesco said. 

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The Animal Rescue Corps is asking for volunteers, along with kitty litter and Purina One cat food donations.