Hurricane Irma affected people in many diverse ways, some of them devastating. The same is true of people’s pets, and that is Ericka Basile’s special concern.

A longtime animal advocate who has a remarkable and varied background dealing with pets, Basile started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $10,000 in contributions for local animal rescue organizations affected by the storm, and worked her contacts in the pet products industry to generate more donations, both of dollars and $6,000 worth of pet care products and supplies.

Many people in the area were forced to surrender their pets due to financial reasons or homelessness in the storm’s aftermath, and with area residents’ attention focused on their own problems, local shelters were struggling, she said. Donations to help animals usually go to national organizations, but after Irma, local groups had not been receiving much from those sources.

“When I saw the devastation caused by this storm, I knew I had to act. I could see our shelters and animal organizations were not getting much national help,” said Basile. “So I chose five local organizations that I knew could use some assistance.”

More: Hurricane Irma: How Marco Island weathered the storm

Basile chose five area nonprofits to funnel her donations through, and headed out on Oct. 10 to deliver checks and in-kind donations. The groups were For the Love of Cats on Marco Island, the Humane Society Naples, Gulfcoast Humane Society in Fort Myers, Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida in Estero, and the Collier County Domestic Animal Services Trust Fund.

As Collier’s DAS is an arm of government, the donation had to go to their related trust fund, which allows DAS to pay for services such as pet medical procedures that the county could not otherwise cover.

“These funds will be used to provide emergency medical care for our shelter animals,” said Darcy Andrade, director of the DAS shelter.

For the Love of Cats cofounder Jim Rich said their group had seen a spike of homeless kittens and cats since Irma. His cofounder and life partner Jan Rich said they work to keep more families from having to give up their pets.

“We want to help low income people keep their pets. Sometimes, the difference is being able to afford food and cat litter,” she said. “We supply a lot of pet supplies to the Our Daily Bread food pantry.”

Dawn Ward and Paula Savarese, owners of Dogs Love Kale pet food company, helped deliver supplies and checks, as well as donating some of their own dog treats. They posed for a picture at the Humane Society Naples, along with a friendly eight-year-old dog named Spike, who they pointed out is available for adoption.

Accompanying Basile on her delivery runs was Katie Huneke of Embrace Pet Insurance, which made a $5,000 donation to the effort, enabling each recipient charity to receive a check for $2,500. Basile knows the company well, as each of her nine pets carries health insurance with Embrace.

“With our pets – five cats and four dogs – we didn’t think a hotel would take us, so we stayed for Irma,” said Basile, so they rode out the storm at their home in North Naples near Immokalee Rd. and Collier Blvd. She has also had pets including rats, birds, fish, rabbits, dwarf hamsters, turtles and bearded dragons.

Basile founded Naples Dog Magazine, opened Planet Tails Cat Café, was a pet product scout for over 10 years for Good Morning America and the Dr. Oz Show, and is currently national sales manager for Tall Tails Pet, so she has unique expertise dealing with pets and their people.

With people still struggling post-Irma, why focus on pets?

“Whenever you can help your community, you tap into your expertise,” said Basile. “I’ve been in every aspect of this industry, and I knew where to get help. Lots of people have expertise helping people – so I’m doing what I know. Helping pets helps people and it helps families.”

Pet care companies contributing to the effort include Tall Tails, Embrace Pet Insurance, Petrageous, Catty Stacks, Aquavista, EzyDog, Dogs Love Kale, Pioneer Pet Products, Prefer Pets Carriers, Nose Offense Spray, K9 Honey, and Gold Paw Series.

For more information or to contribute to Basile’s effort, go online to

To learn more or help the work of For the Love of Cats, a 501(c)3 organization, call 239-642-8674 or go online to



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