Helping Stray Animals in Cuba—Grace Waszkiewicz and APAC-Varadero Save Homeless Cats, Dogs, and Horses


Grace Waszkiewicz, President of APAC-Varadero

“But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible.” José Martí, Cuban revolutionary and poet

This brilliant quote seemed to perfectly capture the spirit and courage of Grace Waszkiewicz in her mission to help the animals of Cuba with her organization, APAC-Varadero, a registered Canadian nonprofit organization. Here’s her story about how she got involved–all because of a tiny red kitten she met while on vacation at Varadero Beach in February 2009.

One Tiny Red Kitten Changes a Life Forever

“When we arrived in Varadero, it was early in the morning and our rooms were not ready yet, so while my friend stayed with our luggage, I went to see the famous beach. On my way back I stopped at the bar by the ocean to have a beer. While enjoying my drink, I noticed several cats around, which did not surprise me (knowing the reality of life in this area of the world). One of them was just a tiny red kitten laying flat on the ground and crying softly. A few ladies from Quebec tried to feed him some fish but the animal did not even look at the food. Tiny as he was, he needed his mother and her milk. I addressed the bar staff but they told me there are too many cats to care and that this baby was probably refused by its mother.” Grace said of her fateful meeting with the tiny red kitten.

Tiggera (1)

Tigra, the tiny red stray kitten that led Grace Waszkiewicz to found APAC-Varadero and help Cuban animals.

“Little did I know that my destiny was about to claim me, “ Grace recalled. “While heading towards the pool on the last of day my vacation, as I was passing a garbage area, I heard the familiar cry, and a second later I saw, yes – you guessed it – the same red kitten, only even skinnier than before. It could not lift its tiny body of the ground. This time, I did what I should have done in the first place. I wrapped the animal in my blue beach towel, and smuggled the cat into my room. Somehow, I talked a hotel employee into finding a local to help with the kitten and a veterinarian showed up later that day. At first glance, I didn’t have much faith in the vet and the other person who showed up and took the kitten but they turned out to be the most amazing group of people I had ever met, working on their own to help animals like the tiny red kitten with little or no resources and not much support. I decided that I, too, had to get involved so I became President of All Progress in Animal Care Varadero (APAC-Varadero) formally registering the organization as a Canadian charity and began helping.”

cat on kennel

On a Mission to End Overpopulation

Grace shared that APAC-Varadero works in Cuba under an agreement with the CCVC (Scientific Council of Cuban Veterinarians), allowing them to co-operate with a group called CONBAC (National Commission of Animal Welfare); more specifically, with its chapter located in Matanzas Province. “Together, we organize spay/neuter campaigns, de-worming clinics, and educational activities for children and adults in Cuba. We also exchange professional knowledge in the field, and visit each other to participate in events relating to our work,” she said.

vet at work

APAC-Varadero vet hard at work.

When asked about working in Cuba for animals, Grace said, “Changing attitudes towards homeless animals and volunteering is a big challenge. Humane control of the stray population is a concept that needs lots of convincing, patience and time. And until recently, volunteering was seen as a ridiculous idea. Why would anybody want to work for nothing? Luckily, the talented young Cubans we work with are passionate about these new ideas and their commitment proves that those new ways do work, and work well.”

horse vet

Helping horses in Cuba

APAC-Varadero works nonstop bringing new methods for humanely managing the stray populations with ongoing sterilization campaigns and trap/neuter/release programs, performing on average 600 free spay/neuter Saturday surgeries a year, and offering free consultations for nearly one thousand animals – both small animals and horses. Plus, APAC-Varadero has arranged a number of successful adoptions of homeless dogs and cats – within Cuba, to Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. (To learn about a special APAC-Varadero rescue pup named Isla, check out her story at:


Click on photo to read about Isla, a very special APAC-Varadero rescue!

Tourists and Tourism Can Help Strays in Cuba

Though facing great challenges in finding support for APAC-Varadero’s work, Grace believes there’s a lot of hope for animals in Cuba, especially if tourists get involved. “Tourists have the biggest impact on how strays are treated or if they are helped at all. Cubans do not have free access to the hotels, but each tourist at their resort who cares about animals should approach the hotel management. They can spread the news that there is a humane way of controlling the homeless animal population and they can insist on letting our team perform sterilization of the resort animals in Varadero. Cuban authorities will listen to the resorts because the tourism industry is the most profitable part of Cuban economy (many resorts are shared properties of the Cuban government and the foreign investors – many from Spain and Germany),” she said. Recently, a prominent resort, Iberostar Taino, joined the cause by setting up a Cat Café on their property to establish an alternate habitat for stray cats and supported an APAC-Varadero spay/neuter effort, drawing an enthusiastic response from tourists who want a humane environment for strays.

Cat Cafe at Iberostar Taino and APAC-Varadero volunteer, Ingrid

Cat Cafe at Iberostar Taino and APAC-Varadero coordinator in Cuba, Ingrid. Ingrid’s dedication and awesomeness have saved many, many animals.

“Another great way tourists could help the animals is if each individual traveling to Cuba would bring up to 5kg of much-needed veterinarian medications (allowable without any tax or a special permit) or other supplies. You can see what’s most needed on our Facebook page: There is an absolutely critical need for dog and cat vet meds in Cuba as there is not much attention paid to smaller, non-agricultural animals. Though all veterinary doctors in Cuba have great skills and are generally well educated, small animals veterinary medicine is only taught for a couple of semesters. And they lack the pharmaceutical goods, so stray cats and dogs generally do not receive much help at all. Getting these medications would be a dream come true for the animals. Imagine if each of the one million Canadian tourists visiting Cuba every year brought 5 kg of supplies with him/her!”

 boy with dog

Wow! That would be a whole lot of medications for the deserving animals of Cuba! Ms. Humane Advisor agrees that your vacation really can save animals!

Thank you, Grace, for telling your story and for your dedication to the animals of Cuba. As José Martí put it so eloquently, your sweet love (for animals) makes you invincible. Ms. Humane Advisor believes that if every tourist that encountered a stray kitten or puppy while on vacation made a commitment to help in the way you have, there would be no more strays. You and the voIunteers of APAC-Varadero are truly an inspiration!

Dear Readers:  You can make Grace’s dream come true. Check out the links below to learn how you can help stray animals in Cuba with APAC-Varadero and Grace Waszkiewicz.


APAC-Varadero Blog:

APAC-Varadero Facebook







Cooking Up Good News for Animals with One Of The World’s Largest Tour Operators—Thomas Cook’s Nancy Brock Talks About Their Corporate Commitment to Animal Welfare

T Cook logo

Leading the Pack

Thomas Cook Group, a premier leisure travel group operating in seventeen (17) countries with yearly sales in the billions, is a world class leader in sustainable business practices. Included in their sustainability policies is a commitment to the welfare of animals used in tourist attractions and also those impacted by tourism. Ms. Humane Advisor recently talked to Nancy Brock, Sustainable Business Manager for Thomas Cook, to learn why animal welfare is important to a company whose business is selling dream vacations and holidays to exotic destinations.

Nancy Brock, Sustainable Business Manager, Thomas Cook.

“Thomas Cook UK was the first major tour operator to have a published animal welfare policy,” Brock explained. “We backed this up by training over 50 members of staff to conduct animal welfare audits on excursions featuring animals. At Neilson (a Thomas Cook business unit) we developed a Feral Cat Policy to try to address the issue of stray cats over-running the hotel restaurants we operate in Greece and Turkey – to the delight of some customers and the horror of others!”

Ms. Brock admits to being an animal lover and feels that it has helped her to better understand customer needs. “Yes, I have always been an animal lover and we always had a cat or two about the place. Over the last 10 years or so we have added a few chickens to the mix, some new, some retired factory girls. Then, when I became involved in sustainability, it became increasingly clear that animals play a big part in our customer’s tourism experiences, whether as part of an organized excursion or just out and about on the streets. In the same way our customers look to us to check their hotel accommodation safety, similarly they expect us to check that the animals in our excursions are being looked after properly. They also look to us to address issues such as stray animals as we are their main point of contact with the destination they are visiting.”

Nancy and her cat, Beryl.

Animal Welfare Programs Make Business Sense

Thomas Cook’s responsible tourism activities for animals represent a sizeable commitment of resources by a travel company, supporting Ms. Humane Advisor’s position that there is a business case for the humane treatment of animals, Ms. Brock agreed.

“We receive many letters, emails and Facebook postings from customers whose holiday memories have been tainted by the sight of street animals being treated cruelly or neglectfully. While good animal welfare may not enhance the reputation of a destination as it is taken for granted to some extent, evidence of poor animal welfare may damage it so if we can work with destinations to try and address some of these issues, our customers will avoid unhappy experiences and the reputation of the destination is less likely to be harmed.”

To that end, Ms. Brock said that recently Thomas Cook has participated fully in the development of the ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) Global Standards Guidance Manuals for Animal Welfare. “These tools aim to raise awareness and standards of animal welfare in tourism around the world, addressing topics such as captive animal attractions, captive dolphin attractions, working animals (horses, huskies, camels, etc), elephants, wildlife watching and unacceptable practices,” she added.

 ABTA logo 2

ABTA’s Manuals for Animal Welfare are available at:

Global ABTA guidance

Helping Animals Helps People


Rescued horse in the streets of Santo Domingo

Rescued working horse

Thomas Cook also understands that their efforts to help animals positively impact the communities they service. Asked if the tourism industry should care about helping animals when there are so many humans in need, Ms. Brock said yes. “We can do both! And sometimes helping the animals helps the people who own them, especially in cases like the caleche drivers in Egypt and Tunisia where their horse or donkey is their sole livelihood. Working with them to look after their animals better can mean extending the working lives of the animals while giving their customers a happier experience that they will tell their friends about,” she said.

Donkey resize


Just Say No to the Animal Paparazzi


Animals can also exploited at tourist destinations by being used as photographic props and as part of hotel attractions and shows.

According to Ms. Brock, Thomas Cook is keenly aware of these practices and actively discourages them. “Each year we write to all our hotels asking them not to allow animals to be used in their entertainment programmes or touted on their premises as photographic props as many of these animals are poorly treated and have very sad lives. One hotel in Mexico not only put a stop to this activity but started putting signage up around their grounds explaining to customers why this is to be discouraged and giving educational information about the wild animals to be found there (and not to feed them inappropriate food!) Another mini-hotel chain in the Canaries also banned animals from their entertainment programme as a result of the letters.”

Photo Prop Flyer (1).pdf-page-001

Regularly hearing customer or staff stories about animals being misused or poorly treated can be disheartening so Ms. Humane Advisor wondered how Ms. Brock handles the reports she receives about animals. “It can be a challenge and I sometimes shed a tear at the plight of this animal or that story. But so many of our lovely destination staff are passionate about animal welfare and are out there doing what they can, how can I fail to be uplifted?” Brock answered.


Thomas Cook Destination Staff Helping Animals: this is the Kefalonia team with some of the cat & dog food they have raised funds to buy for Animal Rescue Kefalonia, Greece (ARK).

Getting Bigger and Better

2013 was a banner year for Thomas Cook as a business, with new strategies in place to grow their brand and their revenues. Things are also looking up for their animal welfare programs reported Ms. Brock.

“The animal welfare story so far has mostly been around UK activity but the next steps are to look at a Group approach to animal welfare. Thomas Cook UK has sister Thomas Cooks in Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland, France…..and some of them are starting to look at how they can get to grips with better animal welfare in destinations. Quite a big project but somebody has to do it!!” Brock said.

With the vision, talent, and commitment of Thomas Cook staff like Nancy Brock, Ms. Humane Advisor thinks that this exciting new project for animals is certain to improve the lives of animals at travel destinations around the world.

Nancy, thank you for taking the time to talk to us and for all your hard work for animals! This paw’s for you!


Thomas Cook Group:

Thomas Cook Sustainable Tourism:

Thomas Cook Facebook:

Thomas Cook Twitter:


ARK (Animal Rescue Kefalonia):

Caring for Cats and K9s in the Caribbean–The Animal Care Center of St. John USVI

There’s No Place Like St. John for the Holidays AND for Saving Cats and Dogs


It’s that time of year. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and the snow boots are lined up by the door. Sigh. Snow and winter are fun at first, but ultimately, like that obnoxious cousin (you know the one!) at holiday get-togethers, they become annoying much too fast.

So Ms. Humane Advisor recommends that in between trips to the mall and egg nog toddies, you grab your iPad and go online to plan a winter getaway to the beaches of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not only will you find sun, fun, and relaxation but you can also get to know the rescued island cats and dogs at the Animal Care Center of St. John and the amazing staff and volunteers who care for them.

ACC Logo

Just Another Day in Paradise


A short ferry ride away from St. Thomas, St. John is an island filled with beautiful beaches and friendly people. Like many other Caribbean vacation spots, there is also an abundance of stray cats and dogs. Lucky for these strays and any lost island pets, Ryan Moore and the Animal Care Center of St. John are on the job.

Ryan Moore with pups

ACC Shelter Manager Ryan Moore with a few friends!

Supported by dedicated board members and amazing volunteers, Ryan and the Animal Care Center of St. John provide shelter and care for strays plus find many of them new homes, reunite lost pets with their families, offer spay and neuter services, educate the community about caring for pets, AND operate a trap/spay/neuter/release program for the island’s feral cats. The Animal Care Center of St. John also has 30 feeding stations at locations around the island where the cats are given food and water daily by volunteers. And, thanks to the Animal Care Center’s hard work and a 2-year grant from PetSmart Charities, hundreds of these cats have been sterilized to control the feral population.


 Pack Your Hiking Shoes and Grab a Dog!

Peaches is looking for a good home!

Yup, those long lazy days on St. John beaches rubbing suntan lotion on your mate’s back or having a Dirty Monkey at Chateau Bordeaux are pure bliss. But there are a few of us who get a little restless after so much leisure time and want to venture out to experience something different.


Boy,, does the Animal Care Center of St. John have a vacation outing for folks like me! Tourists, especially animal-loving tourists, who are interested in enjoying a very unique St. John experience are encouraged to visit the shelter, play with the pets, and join the Animal Care Center’s shelter dogs on a weekly hike. It’s their Voluntourism program!


If you decide (good choice btw!) that St. John is your next vacation stop, check with the Animal Care Center about their volunteer opportunities and hiking schedule during the time you will be there. It could change your vacation and your life.

Dog with head out of door

The Welcoming Committee!

Party Like a Rock Star for the ACC!

Winter Gala

2014 Winter Gala

The Animal Care Center of St. John stays “in tune” with the local community, ex-pats, and tourists through exciting events during the year that benefit the Center including flea markets, bake sales, a holiday open house, and in January 2014, a fun-filled Winter Gala. The theme for the Gala is “Party Like a Rock Star!” where guests are encouraged to dress like their favorite rock stars. Not only will the best St. John version of Hall & Oates, Rihanna, Bob Marley, or Bruce Springsteen win a prize but rocking your inner Lady Gaga will benefit the Animal Care Center!

Hall and Oates Costume

“Say it isn’t so!”

The Top Five Ways YOU Can Help Cats and Dogs in St. John’s

 ACC St John

Fun events like the Winter Gala help keep the cats and dogs at the Animal Care Center in kibble but there’s always room for more donations and support. So here’s Ms. Humane Advisor’s “Top 5″ ways that you can help the Animal Care Center of St. John keep on doing their good work and saving even more cats and dogs.

5.         LIKE their Facebook page and share on your social media

4.         Visit St. John and volunteer at the ACC

3.         Sponsor or adopt an ACC pet

2.         Donate money or ACC wish list items

1.         Become a member of the ACC

For more information on how you can get involved, check out the Animal Care Center of St. John’s website.

ACC Cats

Thanks for helping us!


Animal Care Center of St. John website:

Animal Care Center of St. John wishlist:

Become an Animal Care Center of St. John member:

Animal Care Center of St. John Facebook page:




Animal Welfare and Tourism in Africa by Grace Thuo, Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW)

It is an honor and a privilege to feature the following guest article written by Grace Thuo, Executive Assistant, African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW). Grace has written an incredibly compelling and insightful piece to educate us on what’s happening for animals in her home country of Kenya, and throughout Africa, in view of the rapid economic development and massive foreign investment going on in this vast continent. She has also included suggestions for tourists and corporations who care about animals on how to help! Thank you, Grace!!

Animal Welfare and Tourism in Africa

By Grace Thuo, Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW)

Grace Thuo

Disclaimer: I will readily admit that the title of this entry is somewhat misleading. I will  be untruthful to say I can in any way appropriately represent Africa’s views and thoughts on this issue. To take on Africa in its entirety bearing in mind its extremely intricate web of subjectivity is a most difficult task. I am Kenyan and so my thoughts will be skewed this way.  I hope the reader however will be able to pick similar threads from the article which are repeated all over Africa.

Foreign investors are knocking on Kenya’s doors. Banging is more like it. Economically, socially and politically and as East Africa’s biggest economy, we have always had a love-hate relationship with this group but they have never been in short supply. As a result, right now, the smell of  ‘newness’; sponsored by local and foreign investors,  is over powering- super highways, super malls, super gated communities…it is all super. A new constitution has devolved power from the capital Nairobi and broken regions down to counties and in effect opened up interior locations whose dream of development had been hanging on by a thread.

Kenyan with dog

Each county is falling over itself to convene investor conferences and an overriding ‘star’ attraction is tourism. “Come and discover the untapped tourism gem that is X county!”   Granted, these meet-ups are serving as eye openers to the opportunities that have been untapped since Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963. But as with many things – and in this case donor funded sparkly ones – double-edged realities are playing out. For Kenya, tourism is it. The more Kenya grows and opens up its spaces, the more the country’s tourism attractions are being spread to ever thinning limits, especially wildlife.

Kenya’s wildlife is our tourism. Yes, we have many attractions but our wildlife comes first and foremost. It is what visitors save up to come and see on two-week safaris. It is what earned Kenya the title safari capital of the world (this title may have changed ownership since then though). Kenya comes in fifth as the most visited country in Africa and besides our long distance running skills; wildlife is the other positive thing we are known for. It goes without saying then that it behooves us to care for our animals and not just care for them, but protect them in every possible way we can.

ANAW De-snaring a Zebra from Poacher’s Snare

Zebra freed from snare

However, the opposite is taking place. With the growth in development so has the growth in appetites and competition. Our neighbors Tanzania and South Africa are ‘rolling in bagfuls of money’ from sport hunting tourism. Powerful behind-the-scenes arm twisters have been working extra hard to lift the ban on sport hunting in Kenya. We are on the last frontier of this battle. As I write this, the Kenya Government is working overtime to pass the Wildlife Conservation & Management Bill, 2013 with an amendment that re-introduces cropping and culling and in essence sport hunting through the back door. A previous experiment of the same practices was introduced between 1990-2003 but failed dismally, but it seems lessons were not learned. It is an open secret that some of the foreign wooers banging down our doors are out rightly pulling the strings here.

Meanwhile, at the citizen level, we as Kenyans do not care much for animal welfare either.  It is often misunderstood, ignored or non-existent.  Whether educated or not, the single most common question animal welfare practitioners must respond to- and this is true for the continent- is, “why are you defending animals whereas people are dying?”  This statement presents a very strong barrier to promoting animal welfare especially in scenarios of human-wildlife conflict, where communities accuse us of caring for the animals’ well being more than their own, bearing in mind loss of food and livelihoods that accompanies this conflict.

ANAW Educating Future Leaders About Animal Welfare

Further to this, statistics may read that 14 per cent of Kenya’s GDP comes from tourism a big contribution being from wildlife tourism, but to the local man, what has that done for him? He reasons,  I am still poor and struggling and resultantly some will take to poaching wildlife to make ends meet receiving peanuts for this violent work while the middle man and the white collar mover gets it all. Anti-poaching campaigns are currently ringing from every quarter because we are facing a poaching crisis not witnessed in recent years. All the hard conservation work that was done to bring back our wildlife, especially rhinos and elephants from the brink of extinction that was the poaching crisis of the 1980s and 1990s is slowly and surely coming to naught.

Baby Elephant

Many tourists too put their safari interests before animal welfare. As a former travel writer, it was quite distressing when the tour driver received a radio call that a big cat has been spotted. We would watch dumbfounded from afar as the sleepy quiet of the national park would be lost in a cacophony of revved up engines, billows of dust and calls from over-excited tourists to their drivers of faster! faster! just so that the driver can be the first to arrive at the scene, stop his vehicle closest to the big cat for that money shot. In the high season was the worst! A convoy of at least 25 vans and tour buses will be seen encircling and trapping a hapless lion which was in the middle of a hunt for that money shot, interfering with nature’s order of things.


The outlook is indeed wanting, bleak even. Locally, the Kenyan animal welfare fraternity is working hard to ensure animal welfare is not put aside in favor of monetary-fuelled tourism. Around the continent, the Pan African Animal Welfare Alliance is one platform trying to reach out and bring together animal welfare organizations from around the continent into one space, to give voice to animal welfare issues in Africa.

ANAW Magazine

As a traveler, what responsible travel choices can you make to ensure protection of wildlife?

  • At the very basic level, honor the call to not litter in the park you are visiting. Wildlife injuries and death from litter are real and some of the harmful toxins left behind from our litter outlive us. We must ensure we protect their environment too.
  • Be the responsible tourist who observes guidelines with relation to keeping distance between the wildlife and your tour van and following other park rules you find.  It is important to leave the animals to exhibit their natural behavior without being all over their space. It makes for an even more enriching and memorable safari
  • Visit lodges and camps which have a clear, audited track record of promoting animal welfare, and of involving surrounding communities in doing this. You can opt for volutourism or simply have a day off your trip to volunteer at such a camp or lodge.
  • Stand up against sport hunting. There is absolutely no justification for this. The Africa Network for Animal Welfare  is one animal welfare organization in Nairobi raising funds to call for the removal of culling and cropping from the Wildlife Bill 2013.
  • Consider adopting an animal. For instance, you can adopt an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which rescues, homes and cares for orphaned elephants before releasing them back in the wild. For a minimal fee, you provide for an elephant’s food and care and you receive updates from the Trust about your Elly.
  • Corporations can use their status and clout to promote animal welfare in a location of their choice by partnering with stakeholders on the ground to focus on an animal welfare aspect such as education and de-snaring activities (removing crude snares from wildlife rich areas set up by poachers to ensnare wildlife).

The options are plenty. We must all come together to ensure another 50 years from now, we are guaranteed to see wildlife in whichever part of the world we are in.

Water Buffalo



Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW):

ANAW Facebook page:

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:

Pan African Animal Welfare Alliance:




Saving Lives in the Riviera Maya—Playa Animal Rescue Brings Tourism and the Community Together to Create Lasting Change for Animals

The resort town of Playa del Carmen, filled with drop-dead gorgeous sunsets and white sand beaches, is a tropical playground for millions of tourists every year. But for Playa Animal Rescue founder Sue Silva, enjoyment of this vacation spot was marred by the sad sight of the dying stray dogs in the streets of Playa del Carmen. “It was a huge wake up call for me and my family when we saw how badly off the dogs in Playa were. I just couldn’t sit around and enjoy myself while I knew a dog was starving to death right outside my doorstep.” A woman of action, Sue rallied her family, friends, and fellow ex-pats together to start helping the strays, founding Playa Animal Rescue (PAR), a U.S.-registered 501(c) (3) charity, in 2011. Since then, Sue and PAR Director of Operations, Jan Northenscold, have built a state-of-the-art shelter, hired a full-time veterinarian, Dr. Mauricio Ramirez, and enlisted the help of local partners to support their work, saving thousands of dogs. PAR also combines resources with other rescue organizations in the area like Coco’s Cat Rescue Playa del Carmen to maximize the impact for strays.

Sue Silva-Founder of Playa Animal Rescue

Jan Northenscold--PAR Director of Operations

Jan Northenscold–PAR Director of Operations

Tourism Helping Animals

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

With tourism being the lifeblood of the Riviera Maya resort area where Playa del Carmen is located, and with the impact of seeing strays while on vacation having measurable economic consequences for travel destinations and companies (see the results of a survey of tourists about strays while on vacation, available here), several prominent travel businesses have also joined Playa Animal Rescue’s mission including V2 Incentives, a premier U.S. group incentive travel company, and Fairmont Mayakoba, a luxury resort property recently ranked in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2013.

Partners for Change


PAR’s relationship with V2 Incentives, a full-service marketing and incentive travel company, began when its Vice President of Marketing, Tere Vastine, had an experience with three stray puppies on a Playa del Carmen golf course. She had received comments from V2 program guests about the strays prior to this but when she encountered the helpless, abandoned babies herself, she knew she had to get involved. “Creating awareness is the key. V2 Incentives is committed to helping PAR with fundraising, public relations, and leveraging our relationships in the travel industry. Sue Silva is a dog angel and her rescue stories are amazing and heroic, plus, Sue understands that helping dogs makes the community a better place for everyone,” said Vastine. She also encourages other travel businesses to join in helping animals at tourist destinations and was recently featured in Smart Meetings Magazine’s March 2013 issue (click here to read the article) about her work with PAR.

Tere Vastine’s Rescued Mexican Dogs: Lily and Playa



For the luxury hotel, Fairmont Mayakoba, a partnership with PAR was a perfect fit. “At Fairmont Mayakoba, our goal is to raise awareness for a culture of non-violence towards animals, while offering an opportunity for corporations to have a positive impact in the local community,” Hotel Manager Sven Richter said. Guests are encouraged to pack much-needed animal supplies in their suitcases from a list available on Pack for a Purpose, [a website that facilitates the support of charities at tourist destinations] to donate to PAR and also to visit the shelter itself to meet the dogs and cats. “By inviting not only guests on vacation [to help], but also groups and conventions with events at Fairmont Mayakoba, the hotel is creating awareness toward this important cause,” said Paulina Feltrin, Director of Public Relations for the hotel. Both Feltrin and Richter are animal lovers and Richter proudly owns a dog rescued from the streets of Playa del Carmen named Pippa.


Fairmont Mayakoba Guest Donations to PAR

Fairmont Mayakoba Guest Donations to PAR

Splish Splashing Towards a Brighter Future

Donations are voluntary but smiles and laughter are mandatory!

Along with the above tourism industry programs to promote awareness, every Saturday in the city of Playa del Carmen, PAR hosts a Dog Spa & Play Day, where the community is invited to join in bathing, pampering and playing with dogs from the shelter. The weekly event attracts attention for the shelter and provides a hands-on experience for community members to meet and fall in love with the PAR dogs available for adoption. PAR team members advise newbie dog washers to make sure they wear their swimsuits and waterproof sunscreen because some of those happy, wagging tails make keeping dry a challenge!

“Shilo”needs a good home.

Saving One Dog at a Time

Through fun, interactive events like the Spa Day, along with tourism industry and community support, corporate partnerships, committed volunteers, and donors, Sue Silva and Jan Northenscold of PAR are building a better future for the dogs of Playa del Carmen, one dog at a time.

Yet even with all of this support, the problem is still so huge that there is a critical need to find more help to reach the dogs still out on the streets. Click here to check out how you can help Playa Animal Rescue save more lives.


Playa Animal Rescue (PAR):

PAR Facebook:

V2 Incentives:

Fairmont Mayakoba:

Fairmont Mayakoba Pack for a Purpose:


Beauty and the Beasts–Actress and Photographer Jimena Hoyos’ Love Affair with the Street Dogs of Colombia

JImena Hoyos

JImena Hoyos

The Role of Her Lifetime

Bernardo by Jimena Hoyos

Actress and photographer Jimena Hoyos is part of the glamorous international world of film and television. Her real starring role, however, requires her to get up close and personal with the unwashed, neglected, and hungry street dogs she adores. But she’s always loved dogs, especially her baby dog, Zico.

Jimena and her baby boy, Zico Photo by Jimmy Bruch

“Zico was the love of my life. When I lost him a few years ago, it was devastating,” Jimena said. It wasn’t until she started taking care of the street dogs in her hometown of Bogotá, Colombia, and the small towns outside of the city, that she started to move past her sadness. It soon became her mission to feed them when she traveled back to Colombia from her home base in Miami, and she started driving around with her car packed full of food and water for the stray dogs wandering around the streets, unfed and thirsty. “It was simply overwhelming and heartbreaking when I saw how many dogs needed help. I soon decided that just giving them lunch once a week wasn’t going to be enough. So I went to work on constructing permanent food and water dispensers to put in central areas where the dogs could come and eat and drink whenever they wanted. After experimenting with 7 different prototypes, I constructed a food dispenser made out of metal that doesn’t rust. It’s based on a chicken feeder and holds 40kg of dog food,” Jimena said.


Satisfied Restaurant Patron

Satisfied Restaurant Patron


Jimena said it worked great but there was a cultural learning curve. “Some of the local people threw their garbage in the dispenser or took the food out for their own dogs. And unbelievably, someone once stole the whole thing!” It has taken some time, but she finally has gotten the dogs and the people used to the dispenser. “The dogs were easier to train. I just went up to a dog in street with some dog food in my hand and he proceeded to gossip to the rest of the dogs where to come and eat!” Now, by her estimate, she is feeding at least 52 dogs near her restaurant, Carambola, in Bogotá.


Dining in Style


Capturing Magnificence


It's All There in His Eyes

It’s All There in His Eyes

It didn’t take long for 52-plus hungry dogs to empty the food dispenser so Jimena quickly figured out that she needed to find a sustainable way to keep it loaded and those growling tummies filled with kibble while also finding other locations to add more dispensers. She also knew she had to raise awareness to gain help for her new charity organization, Gozques,, dedicated to helping the dogs but she had a huge dislike for the usual advertising campaigns for animal welfare. “They are morbid and linger on the pain and sadness. I wanted to create awareness by sending a message with a completely different vibe.” Since she had always taken photos while traveling around feeding the dogs, she decided to start selling these photos of the dogs in order to feed them. “My goal when taking photos is capture the moment when the animals show you their magnificence, their love, their soul. It can take a lot of time with some dogs while some dogs start posing like top models.” Divas exist even in the Colombian countryside it seems!


Jimena Hard at Work

Jimena Hard at Work

Jimena’s first exhibition was at her restaurant in Bogotá, and it was a huge success. So it wasn’t too long before an “angel” in Miami saw one of her pieces and ordered forty more for another exhibition. However, it’s not about just taking a photo as Jimena also handcrafts a frame for each photo out of recycled materials. The recycled objects convey her vision for each of the dogs that she has captured with her camera and the frames turn the mounted photographs into a one-of-a-kind, evocative, works of art. The Miami show ended up also being wildly popular and Jimena received offers for exhibitions around the world. But putting so much of her passion for the dogs into each piece takes time and energy and she has only agreed so far to a few more showings this year in Miami, New York and Austria. Plan your vacation around a Jimena Hoyos/Gozques exhibition and put those tourist dollars to good use!

Pulgoso by Jimena Hoyos

Pulgoso by Jimena Hoyos

Brave New World


Jimena with her "runts"

Jimena with her “runts”

Jimena admits that though she started off to help the dogs, the dogs really ended up helping her. “The response to my photographs has been so incredible that it’s taken my life in a totally new direction. To think that the dogs that people walked on top of every day in the street like trash, never seeing the suffering, are now given a place of honor on a gallery wall, makes me cry.” Recently, she also began working with a Colombian charity organization on a project to build a sanctuary for the dogs along with programs for spay/neuter and to train the dogs as service dogs. The future seems to be bright and sunny for this beauty whose heart is as big as her talent and the dogs she helps.

Jimena talking about Gozques on Univision

Thank you, Jimena, for your vision and your hard work for these deserving dogs. We look forward to seeing more of your work in art galleries, movie theaters, and of course, in the eyes of your biggest fans, the street dogs of Colombia.


We Love You, Jimena!



Gozques website:; email address:

To make a donation:





Jimena’s restaurant in Bogotá:

Everything and Anything You Do for Animals Matters–Dr. Marc Bekoff Makes the Case for Compassionate Conservation

All in a Life’s Work

Scholar, writer, and humanitarian Dr. Marc Bekoff, has always “minded” animals. Born to loving, compassionate parents, he understood even as a child that “other” animals were also intelligent creatures, capable of complex emotions and thoughts. These perceptions became a passion and led him to make the study of animal behavior his life’s work.

We recently talked about his new book, “Ignoring Nature No More:  The Case of Compassionate Conservation,” an amazing collection of essays that he edited with an eye to bringing together “bold and forward looking ideas and action” to heal what he calls our “wounded world.” The book presents complex thoughts and analyses about the profound human impact on a planet filled with billions of other species and why it’s time to rethink or sadly, in some cases, begin to think about what needs to change to ensure that the world as we know it continues to be filled with natural beauty and essential resources.

So What Exactly is Compassionate Conservation?

Ignoring Nature No More

Well, the formal answer is that it is a rapidly growing movement that brings together diverse stakeholders to develop solutions for protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity by addressing the human psychological, cultural, and social factors that have made real change challenging to implement thus far. BUT, in more basic terms, it all comes down to figuring out how to work together to replace the beliefs we hold that, as humans, we are entitled to dominate and exploit nature, with compassion and conservation. Then and only then, along with considering the well-being of all stakeholders, factoring in what human and non-human animals need, and by taking into account what works for all groups, he believes that compassionate conservation can take a foothold in our collective consciousness and create real change.

We Don’t Need Science to Tell Us What to Do to Save the Planet. We Just Need More Compassion.


Making sure the planet remains the green, growing, and ever bountiful home we have enjoyed during our lifetimes sounds like an intricate subject that requires much scientific research, and billions in government spending or think tank funding. But Dr. Bekoff said no, that’s not the solution. “We don’t need more science to define the impact. We just don’t. We just need the masses to understand and show them that what they do makes a difference. The world needs more love and more commitment and more devoted people,” he said.

He also believes that we need to show people what works, not just scare them with prophecies of doom that the world needs to change. This resonates personally because from the comfort of my pampered, Western life, it’s pretty hard to imagine a future without birds, bees, grass, trees, oceans, and dolphins except when watching the occasional apocalypse zombie movie. And it’s imperative to convince the masses, Bekoff reiterates, that though they may not be affected now in their suburban lives, except now and then by a mother bear and her cubs who have probably lost their habitat to a new housing development down the road, it’s pretty much guaranteed that our children and our grandchildren will face real challenges from the changing climate.

But how do we get the masses on board, I asked, because even for me, sometimes the problem can seem so huge, that I don’t know where to even begin. For example, when I hear about the orangutans in Borneo losing their habitat to palm oil developers, it’s feels overwhelming, as if there’s nothing that I can do, as an individual, to help the big red apes. Bekoff said NO, this is absolutely not true. “Do anything, set the example. Everything you do for animals matters,” he said. AMEN! I gave the good doctor a BIG cyber high five on that one!

There’s a Real World Out There. Let’s Be Kind and Compassionate

Photo courtesy of Evelyne Ayuda Animales, Cancun, MX

Of course, a Humane Advisor interview wouldn’t be complete without finding out how Dr. Bekoff feels about animals and tourism. He said that he had encountered stray dogs during many of his travels and could understand how seeing strays could negatively affect someone’s vacation. For me, this is an excellent example of how the model of compassionate conservation could be utilized to create positive change for animals. By raising the issue of how stray cats and dogs that suffer at tourist destinations impact tourism, local economics, the health and safety of communities, and the ecosystem, diverse stakeholders could come together to work on solutions. For example, tourism companies and tourism bureaus that have a vested interest in keeping their customers happy; local governments who are responsible for the health and safety of visitors and residents and preserving resources; nonprofit/nongovernmental organizations who are committed to ending the problem; and even tourists who care, could collaborate to share concerns, resources, and best practices and implement programs to humanely manage the stray populations.

As Dr. Bekoff said, “there’s a real world out that demands we display sensitivity to all stakeholders,” so making the discussion broader than just animal welfare concerns can prompt stakeholders who are not focused on animal welfare to understand the impact of neglected animals on the system.

Moon Bears and 7 Billion Small Acts of Compassion 

Jaspers Story

Dr. Bekoff is a card-carrying optimist and believes that it’s in our nature to be kind and really care for other beings. He thinks the future of conservation depends on having first hand experiences with animals, especially for children. He enjoys talking to children about what they can do to help animals by sharing the story from his book, Jasper’s Story:  Saving Moon Bears. Jasper, a moon bear, was rescued from a Chinese bile farm by an extraordinary woman, Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia, and rehabilitated only through the intense efforts of a few caring people. It’s another example of how diverse factors can come together to effect change as the bear farmers were paid by the government to end bear farming so they wouldn’t lose their livelihood, thus keeping the local economy healthy AND ending cruelty to animals. Bekoff also believes that through Jasper’s Story, children can see that it’s possible to enrich the lives of animals with a lot of devotion and hard work but that we can all help, even in small ways. Way to plant the seed, Dr. Bekoff! Imagine if all 7 billion plus of us did one small act to help animals today? What a wonderful world it would be. Click here to save a moon bear like Jasper.

It was such an honor to talk to Dr. Marc Bekoff. We should all be grateful for his courage to follow his passion and curiosity, for his insightful research, writing and speaking that he has shared with us, and for his never ending advocacy for “other” animals. Now go and buy his books and share his message!

And today, do something, anything, to help animals.

More Info:

Links to Amazon:

Ignoring Nature No More: Compassionate Conservation

Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears

Click here to:  Save a Moon Bear and End Bear Bile Farming

Twitter:  @MarcBekoff

Psychology Today Blog:





Speaking To Us Without Words–Art and Animals

Patty Shenker Founds the Animal Advocacy Museum to Touch Our Hearts

Animal Activist Patty Shenker

She’s petite, elegant, and beautiful but the power of Patty Shenker’s advocacy for animals makes her larger than life. Recently she has taken her advocacy visual by co-founding the Animal Advocacy Museum, located in Pasadena, CA. The first exhibition (open until late May 2013) includes many pieces from Patty’s personal art collection, notably the work of artist Sue Coe, whose works are powerful, iconic statements against animal cruelty.

“Modern Man Followed By Ghosts of His Meat” by Sue Coe, 2001.
Currently on Exhibit at the Animal Advocacy Museum, Pasadena, CA

Advocating against animal cruelty became the raison d’être for Patty after her transition to vegetarianism over 40 years ago opened her eyes to the horrific abuses of slaughter houses and farmed animals. “In 1970, I decided to work for peace, and demonstrating peace to me meant accepting no violence at all towards any living being so I became a vegetarian, then vegan,” Patty said in our recent interview at one of L.A.’s most popular vegan restaurants. “After I realized how our culture has accepted cruelty to animals to satisfy our need for food, entertainment, and as beasts of burden, I knew that I’d found my life’s work to speak out for animals and change these injustices.”


Since then she has worked tirelessly, supporting animal rescue and advocacy with her own money and time. For example, in 1990, when she learned that the South Central Shelter in Los Angeles killed the most animals, she mounted a free spay/neuter program for the area, providing free transportation by herself, and fixed nearly a thousand pets. “My father instilled in me a sense of responsibility for the underdog. He came to America as an immigrant and became a criminal defense attorney to fight for justice for those who were innocent. Now I fight for the most innocent creatures of all—animals used and abused by humans,” Patty said.


 From a Dream to Reality—A Museum Celebrating Animal Advocacy

Patty shared with me that it had always been her dream to create a place where works of animal advocacy art could be exhibited. Especially after she heard that there was a museum for the meat product in a can, Spam! After sharing this with her good friend and fellow activist, Prabhat Gautam, they decided to take action and make it happen. Thus, the Animal Advocacy Museum was born. Currently located in a wing of the Throop Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, the Museum is quickly becoming a mecca for Angelenos who care about animals. After a star-studded launch party in March that brought together the best and the brightest from the local animal advocacy scene, the Museum continues to welcome visitors interested in the art exhibition and has also started hosting animal welfare/vegan lectures and educational events. The Museum is currently open Thursdays and Saturdays from 11am-4pm at 280 S. Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. For more information, check out the Museum website ( and make sure to spread the word and “like” the Museum on Facebook.

Finally! An Animal Tourist Attraction that Promotes Their Humane Treatment

As this is a blog about tourism and animal welfare, I asked Patty if there were any plans to add the Animal Advocacy Museum as a tourist destination in Los Angeles. She said not yet, but that she would add it the list of ideas to promote the Museum. Imagine animal advocates from around the world adding the Museum as a stop on their trip to Hollywood and Southern California! WOW! Ms. Humane Advisor likes this idea! What a wonderful addition to an already exciting travel destination known for being the top media center in the world. By adding the Animal Advocacy Museum to tourist “must-see” travel plan checklists, the local tourism industry could support the great work being done to raise awareness of animal rights. Are you listening, Los Angeles Visitors Bureau?

 My Heroes Have Always Been Animal Advocates

During our talk, I asked Patty who were her heroes. She gave it some thought and came up with a few names of people that she had the greatest respect for. But ultimately, she settled on another answer. She said, “Everyone who helps, rescues, fosters, speaks out for and fights for the animals are my heroes. We are all needed to end this horrific treatment of our fellow earthlings and I am comforted everyday to know that there are animal heroes everywhere in the world now. They all are my heroes!” Spoken like a true hero, who having been in the trenches herself, knows how hard it is to keep doing this often heart wrenching work, every day in any way, for animals, without losing hope. So for all of you animal advocates out there–animal rescuers and fosterers, nonprofit leaders and grunt workers, animal lobbyists, and anyone else who has put animal welfare at the top of their agenda, often at great personal costs, your work is recognized, appreciated, and admired!

Puppy Mill Raid with Animal Rescue Corps

 Patty’s Top Five Ways to Help Animals

No interview with this dynamic spokesperson for animal rights would be complete without getting her input on how we can all make a difference for animals starting right now. Patty’s top five ways to help animals are:

  1. Go Vegan. Period. Bottom line. If you can’t go vegan, start with vegetarianism but with the ultimate goal of becoming vegan. Vegan also means no leather or suede, no silk and no fur! It’s easier than you think and means the world to the animals who suffer for all these products.
  2. Shop Aware. Make a conscious decision to not buy products that are tested on animals or impact animal habitats, such as products containing palm oil.
  3. Adopt, Don’t Shop or Breed Your Pets. With over 5 million healthy, adoptable dogs being euthanized every year in the U.S. alone, give a rescue dog or cat a chance at a new life and adopt.
  4. Never Support Entertainment that Uses, Therefore, Abuses Animals. We all grew up going to circuses, zoos, and amusement parks where animals were part of the show. But behind the scenes, these animals often endure lives of abject misery and suffering. Just say NO!
  5. Be a Political Animal. Here’s your chance to speak up to let our government officials know that there are voters out there that care about animals. Write letters. Lobby. Vote Humane.

To hear more from Patty, please check out her awesome blog, Patty’s Perch, where she shares her insights on animal welfare and how you, too, can be a powerful advocate for animals! With her work, she’s set an amazing example for all of us. What an honor it is to know her.


Patty Shenker Blog:

Animal Advocacy Museum:


A Champion for the Great Red Apes

Dedicated to Saving Orangutans, The Orang Utan Republik’s Dr. Gary Shapiro is a Force For Nature


Did you know Orang Utan means “person of the forest” in the Malay language? What a perfect description for these primates who share 97% of their DNA with us and who like us, love their children and can live to be 60 years and older. And did you know that orangutans once lived throughout the entire area of Southeast Asia but are now found only on two islands–Borneo and Sumatra? No? Me either.

Before sitting down to talk to Dr. Gary Shapiro aka “Red Ape Man” and the founder of Orang Utan Republik (OURF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to “saving a species through education initiatives and innovative collaboration projects,” I thought that orangutans were just large, red apes who lived in the rainforest. (And another fun fact that sharp-eyed Dr. S pointed out–Ms. Humane Advisor rocks the same hair color as the “persons of the forest!”) But after an hour with the entertaining and expressive doctor, I learned that they were gentle and solitary beings, capable of communicating by sign language with humans and complex feelings. Sadly, I also learned that the illegal pet trade for orangutans is growing and that if deforestation continues (they are listed as endangered and critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature) in Borneo and Sumatra, within the next ten years, they will be gone from their natural habitats and likely our planet forever. Meaning FOREVER and EVER. In other words, it’s time for all of us to take action!

A PhD and world-renowned expert in orangutans, Shapiro has worked on-the-ground with the red apes since the early 1970s and was the first person to teach an orangutan sign language in their native habitat of Indonesian Borneo. Adopted by one of the female orangutans named Princess, he has dedicated most of his life to learning about the apes and working to protect them by coming up with creative and sustainable ways to help through. After working with another orangutan nonprofit organization for many years, he founded OURF with his beautiful Indonesian wife, Inggriani, to educate local communities and the world about the desperate situation the orangutans face and what we all can do to ensure their survival.

Gary and Princess 2008

Native Voices Get Heard

Extremely perceptive and tuned into the needs of the Indonesian people, Dr. and Mrs. Shapiro knew right away that to be successful, any initiatives to help orangutans would also have to help local communities. So they established a very successful scholarship program to create advocates for orangutan conservation within Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The Orangutan Caring Scholarship program provides scholarships to deserving Indonesian students who are working to complete their studies in the fields of Forestry, Biology and Veterinary Science. As part of the program, scholarship recipients also learn how to advocate for orangutans. Upon graduation, these students enter the Indonesian workforce where their training and advocacy brings orangutan conservation into government policy development, corporate boardrooms, and community affairs. With an eye to balancing the need for economic growth against destruction of critical orangutan habitat, the program teaches the community that conservation efforts can go hand-in-hand with making a living.

Orangutan Caring Scholarship Recipients

Other OURF programs include community outreach with local partner CPOI (Orangutan Caring Clubs of Indonesia) to provide formal and informal education about conservation at schools, government offices, and the community-at-large; the LP Jenkins Fellowship Program which supports graduate and undergraduate students planning to conduct field research on orangutans, related rainforest or conservation education in Indonesia; and the Adopt-a-Tree Program where donors can support the planting and care for trees planted in a reforestation park area near threatened orangutan habitat or in urban areas of Sumatra to encourage school children to learn about orangutans. You can support any or all of these programs by making a donation safely and securely by clicking here.

Adopt-a-Tree Program

Ready for that Life-Changing Orangutan Adventure?

But the program that brought OURF and Dr. Shapiro to your Humane Advisor’s attention is the upcoming Orangutan & River Jungle Tour Borneo, July 4-11, 2013. Personally led by Dr. Shapiro, this trip screams a ONCE IN A LIFETIME experience to my readers who love animals, exotic travels, and adventure. Starting off in Bali, you head to the jungles of Borneo (likely clad in sturdy REI khakis with your Canon Rebel and eco-friendly SPF 50 on each hip) to cruise through the rainforest in native klotok boats visiting places with cool names like Camp Leakey (an orangutan research facility), Crocodile Lake, and Rimba Lodge. Along with listening to Dr. Shapiro’s anecdotes (ask him about when he was interviewed on Italian TV about how an orangutan was the “other woman!”) and scientific narratives, the soundtrack for your journey will be jungle birds, gibbons, long-tailed macaques, and proboscis monkeys. Music to our animal-loving ears!

Real Borneo Swingers!

This trip is not your average cruising experience, to say the least. Things will be a little different than the jungle ride at your local amusement park with weather and travel conditions sometimes unpredictable. Dr. Shapiro suggests that interested travelers “bring a spirit of adventure and inquiry, a healthy sense of humor and a willingness to encounter the unexpected and you will find your trip to Indonesia the adventure of a lifetime!”

Orangutan & River Jungle Tour Borneo

The trip is nearly booked but there is still room so BOOK NOW to save your spot in the klotok boat! Check your calendar, call your spouse/traveling partner and click here to make your reservations.

The TOP FIVE WAYS Tourists Can Help Orangutans from the Comfort of Our Armchairs

During our time together, it was clear that Dr. Shapiro, as a scientist, views all of nature—including us upright walking two-leggers—as part of an intricate system of interdependency. In other words, what we are eating and drinking in our corner of the globe is impacting some person or species in another part of the world. As a matter of fact, the number one reason that orangutan habitats and therefore, orangutan populations are being decimated is our increased demand for palm oil, an ingredient found in nearly 50% of most of the products we consume on a regular basis. YIKES! Click here for more info on why orangutans are facing extinction on OURF’s website.

Knowing that my readers like to take action for animals, I asked Dr. Shapiro to give me just 5 things that I could share with my readers that would make a difference for these amazing apes.

The Red Ape Man sez:

1.  Vote with your wallet by shopping responsibly

Check the ingredients on foods for palm oil. Avoid buying and look for alternatives WITHOUT palm oil. Click here to find out more about palm oil:

Take Action

2.  Raise awareness

I’d like to think that I’m pretty knowledgeable about animal issues but meeting Dr. Shapiro really opened my eyes to the challenges orangutans are facing. So spread the word by sharing this blog post and connecting to OURF on FB, Twitter, and YouTube. Also, if you’re in LA, swing over to the Comic Relief for the Red Apes April 2013 event:

3.  Support OURF Campaigns

Let your Orangutan flag fly! Click here to download a high resolution image and make your own flag or buy one from Café Press. Take a photo with the flag and submit it to OURF to be included on their Facebook page, Fly OUR Flag!

Orang Utan Republik4.  Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and use your voice for the voiceless

They can use sign language but orangutans have no way to talk to decision makers except for us. So politely let government officials know that you and the rest of the world cares about the big, red apes. OURF has assembled a list of contacts so you can spend a morning asking for their support along with thanking them for listening. And sign the OURF petition to stop the Illegal Orangutan Trade by clicking here. Oh and mark your calendars for Orangutan Caring Week, November 10-16, 2013! Check it out!


5.  Go on vacation!!

This is Ms. Humane Advisor’s favorite way to help! Click here to sign up for the July 4-11, 2013 Orangutan & River Jungle Tour Borneo. And one more reminder that It’s filling up fast so book now!

Orangutan & River Jungle Tour Borneo

Website links:

Orang Utan Republik:

More info on Dr. Gary Shapiro:

Orang Utan Republik Facebook:

Orang Utan Republik YouTube:

Orang Utan Republik Twitter:

Orangutan Odysseys:


Lost Dogs No More–Hope for Stray Dogs in Mexico

Once a Tourist in Mexico, Lost Dog Foundation’s Lisa Edwards Found Her Life’s Work Helping Strays

Lost Dog Foundation

Deep Roots, Deep Commitment

After receiving official charity status this past April of 2012, Lost Dog Foundation founder Lisa Edwards has hit the ground running to help animal rescue groups save dogs in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya in Mexico, regions home to the major tourist destinations of Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. This energetic businesswoman fell in love with these lush tropical paradises in 1991 but was struck by the sad conditions of the local dogs–many sleeping in the middle of the road, emaciated, begging outside of tiendas, or sadly digging through trash for food. At first, she just started bringing much-needed supplies down on her increasingly frequent trips south of the border to support the few people working to help the dogs. While volunteering at a spay and neuter clinic in Playa del Carmen, she met Ricardo Pimentel, an independent animal rescuer in Cancun. She was deeply inspired by his single-minded mission to save the street dogs of Cancun and Mexico and made a commitment then and there to help him. Soon afterwards, Lisa began working to help Ricardo establish and build a sanctuary for Mexican street dogs, Tierra de Animales (TdA). She continues to be very hands on in developing and promoting TdA and finding not only the resources to expand their operations in order to save more dogs but to also find new homes for these deserving dogs. Now through her Lost Dog Foundation (LDF), a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Lisa can reach even more donors and offer tax advantages for donations, a big plus for building support for her work.

Welcome to Tierra de Animales!

Welcome to Tierra de Animales!

Just Do It!

First and foremost, LDF focuses on finding funding to assist in rescue, rehabilitation, sterilization, and adoption of local street dogs at TdA and other local rescue organizations. But always a big picture thinker, Lisa also plans to secure the money to sponsor mobile and temporary spay and neuter clinics that can reach people who have no veterinary care available, no means to transport their animals to areas where there are vet services, and no access to sterilization for them, particularly in the small Mayan villages that lay just outside major tourist areas. “One of my dreams is to organize a “Vet Bus” which travels around to remote jungle communities to perform sterilizations and offer basic vet care.” Lisa says. And with plans to relocate to the Riviera Maya towns of Playa del Carmen or Tulum area in her future, she will also be working to improve the local Playa del Carmen “perrera” (pound) so that the general public has better access to it and the dogs receive regular care and attention. Currently the dogs that are brought in to this facility have little hope for adoption and facility conditions are challenging. “Making the perrera more accessible is a win-win solution for the dogs and for the local government,” Lisa said.

Lisa at Tda

She further envisions a campaign in this heavily-visited vacation destination that exposes tourists to the plight of local animals and tells them how they can get involved, or just donate to help. “Increasing awareness is the key to many problems,” Lisa says. “There are millions of tourists each year passing through, shopping and enjoying the area, but the reality is that behind the façade of fancy resorts, there is rampant poverty among the local people and horrendous conditions for animals.” Lisa believes that many of these visitors would choose to help a little if they were just made aware of the conditions of animals only a few blocks from their resorts and hotel rooms. In fact, in her work as a part of Tierra de Animales, she frequently receives emails from vacationers wanting to help a dog they have seen. Just recently, she and TdA assisted tourists to bring a street dog home to the U.S. that they had befriended in the small town of Puerto Morelos.

Two very special TdA rescues that were saved with Lisa’s help







Room in Her Heart for All the Dogs in the World

Along with her nonstop work to help Mexican street dogs, Lisa also owns a busy and popular restaurant in the U.S., and is the proud mother of five rescue dogs, three from Mexico. Ms. Humane Advisor checked in with her about what she says to people who ask her why she doesn’t focus her advocacy efforts locally in the U.S. “I hear this comment, and I do understand why people would say it as there are certainly terrible problems everywhere and never enough homes. But when you travel to other countries and see the massive problems with homeless animal overpopulation–neglect, lack of resources and lack of animal welfare education–it really puts things into perspective. To generalize, you just do not see the severity of animal suffering in the US, Canada, etc., that you do in Mexico and certainly in many other developing countries as well. You have to view everything on a ‘scale’ and on my scale, the problems are much worse and my help is needed more in Mexico than in the U.S. The same argument could be made to people who support charities for children in Africa, or similar causes. But each cause strikes a chord within us, everyone has their own interests, and it takes a lot of people taking on different causes to truly help in the world. That being said, I am a supporter of local animal groups in the area where I live in the U.S. and support various animal causes through my business there.”

Well said, Lisa! The need is so great all over the world including our own backyards that there can never be enough people working to help animals and communities at any location that touches their heart.

Lisa at TdA

Saving Countless Lives Every Day with Your Help–One Dog at a Time

Lisa admits that in her work to help Mexican dogs she’s seen a lot of tragedy and often had her heart broken; she’s rescued dogs lying in the street only to see them die soon thereafter because it was too late to help them. [See Ms. Humane Advisor's story of Alux, a rescued TdA dog] However, she maintains her faith and purpose because she’s also seen that it’s possible to turn around a life with just a little help. “First off, people don’t realize that they can help and that secondly, even the smallest gesture can mean a better life for these dogs. Every donation COUNTS! Even if the donation amounts are small, it is the steady donors that make all of the difference. And especially in Mexico where your donation dollars go even further and can truly save lives every day. Or if you can’t donate but want to help, if you are on Facebook a great way to help is to simply share posts and photographs. Sharing and promoting our work goes a long way to exposing animal welfare issues to friends and friends of friends,” Lisa says. “For me and for many of our supporters, at the end of the day, it’s all about knowing that you have done right by an animal in need and given them a second chance. Every day my own dogs inspire me– three are from Cancun–and I always look at them enjoying their nice lives and I know they are telling me to help other dogs like them in need. Might be corny but that’s what I believe.”

Keep believing, Lisa, because your work helping the dogs of Mexico is inspiring, powerful, and courageous. Ms. Humane Advisor salutes you!

Lisa Edwards

 Easy Ways You Can Help Lisa Save the Dogs of Mexico

  • Support Lost Dog Foundation by ordering a stylish fashion accessory for your cat or dog! Click here to order.

I rescued my human

  • Share this post with your friends!