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Group working to bring dogs from China to US worried about impact of coronavirus outbreak

One of the rescuers with China Rescue Dogs was supposed to fly out to China Thursday to bring dogs back, but they got grounded here instead.

ATLANTA — A rescue group working to bring dogs from China to the United States is worried about the impact an outbreak is having on animals within the country. 

They got in touch with 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross through our K9Kait project. 

One of the rescuers with China Rescue Dogs was supposed to fly out to China Thursday to bring dogs back, but they got grounded here instead. 

Meeso was one of the dogs the group rescued from China a year and a half ago. But the China Rescue Dogs group says there are 150 more dogs they want to save that are stuck in the country because of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. 

China has severely limited movement in, out and throughout the country as healthcare workers try to contain the spread of the new disease, which began in Wuhan.

And while Meeso is enjoying his time at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Stewart had hoped to be on board a flight to Shanghai, China to save more dogs.

"I was, it was a bit heartbreaking. We work with rescuers in Shanghai," she said.

Her charity, China Rescue Dogs, has brought 80 homeless animals from China to the US and placed them in loving homes here.

"I was supposed to fly out on Delta, February 20, and bring home seven lovely dogs to families who are devastated that they didn't get their fur family," Stewart explained. "I can't tell them when these dogs are coming. What's even more sad to us is, I can't even guarantee the safety of these dogs." 

Stewart has gone to China three times since founding the charity last year, but after the outbreak of COVID-19, they had to cancel all of their upcoming trips. 

"Because of the virus and the flight ban, we are no longer able to fly dogs," she said. "We have over 450 dogs right now. We have been sending dogs almost every week ... this has backed us up." 

She added the shelters they work with in China are full of dogs just waiting to come to the US. 

"These pups all had airline tickets, they were all booked, and I wasn't able to get them out of China," she said. 

Stewart has been video chatting with her rescue partners who are on the ground in China, and she said the situation is grim. 

"Currently we have three gentlemen that are contained and stuck in the shelter, all the roads are closed, they can't get out, we can't get help in, so those truly are the heroes that are taking care of 450 animals," she said.

Stewart said they're doing everything they can to support them from 7,000 miles away - she just wishes she could be there. 

"It was devastating," she said. "It was really hard for me because I had to talk to the families. Not so much me as a rescuer, but the families who had been waiting, they had picked out their pet, but I can't give them a time frame when their family is coming." 

While Stewart said they can't travel into China, they're still trying to raise money to send medication and food to the dogs stuck in their shelter, until they can get the clearance to bring them back to the US. 

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