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Jacksonville nonprofit founder travels to Turkey to help rescue pets left behind

While in Turkey, Mike Merrill helped find animals in rubble, set traps to catch pets left behind and provided medical aid.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The founder of a local nonprofit is back in Jacksonville Tuesday after spending more than a week in Turkey, assisting animals and pet owners impacted by earthquakes.

The death toll continues to rise in the country after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the country last month. According to a report by AP News, on March 11 the head of Turkey’s disaster and emergency management agency has increased the country’s death toll from the earthquake to 47,975.

Those on the ground are still dealing with the damage and loss of life, but it’s not just humans that are in need, many animals in the country and now left without a home.

Mike Merrill, the founder of Florida Urgent Rescue, left for Turkey on March 5 to provide assistance.

“All buildings are condemned," Merrill said. " You can’t go in. So the people that are still in the city are living in tents and containers, but many of their animals are still there."

Merrill traveled to the city of Antakya, Turkey nearly four weeks after an earthquake rocked the country.

“Six people and three vehicles bringing in supplies and some of the things we picked up there were toothbrushes, toothpaste, hygiene supplies, and we handed those out along the way to refugees," he said.

Florida Urgent Rescue assists with animal rescue efforts worldwide after disasters. Merrill also recently traveled to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country.

“At this point, there are a lot of dogs that are roaming the streets, there are a lot of cats that are in the buildings," Merrill said. 

While in Turkey, Merrill helped find animals in rubble, set traps to catch pets left behind, and provided medical aid, many times inside make-shift vet clinics.

“There’s a shelter they’re trying to re-open and while we were there, a man and his son drove up with a dog in the truck. The dog had a broken leg. This shelter wasn’t even open, We wound up taking that dog to another shelter, but that shelter doesn’t have ex-rays, doesn’t have power, doesn’t have water," Merrill said. 

Some animals had to be taken to neighboring countries for medical treatment. Others are being held in shelters in hope that their families will come back. But his work is not done.

“If we can get a big pallet of supplies and ship it over, that will help them greatly because there’s a lot of things they need that they can’t get," he said. 

Merrill is trying to connect with a medical supplier in Jacksonville to send a shipment to teams providing aid in Turkey.

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