If you’re like me while on vacation, you turn off the smartphone, avoid watching all that dreary news coverage or reading depressing newspapers, and instead grab a juicy paperback novel (Grisham? Kellerman?) to enjoy under a palapa near the gorgeous blue of Caribbean waters. Work? Forget about it. Guilt? What’s that? Saving the environment? Maybe next trip.
What would you say if I told you that with a little pre-vacation planning you could save lives. Yup, save lives. Really, you say? Yes, you can save lives by sponsoring and rescuing the starving dogs and cats that live around resort destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
I know you’re going to keep reading because pet industry statistics tell us that we’re animal lovers—in the U.S. alone, we will spend an estimated $50 billion dollars in 2011 on our pets.
So why not take this tremendous purchasing power and use it to make a difference in the lives of millions of animals who are suffering near the most beautiful vacation spots in the world. Even if all you want to do is veg out at the spa and order room service.
Do I have your interest yet? Okay, good. Here’s where you say “Tell me how that works, Ms. Humane Advisor?” You got it! First of all, you can take a couple of extra minutes and choose a travel supplier that cares—really cares. Sorry but here comes another statistic. Nearly a third (46 million) of U.S. travelers buy specifically from companies that donate part of their proceeds to charities according to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) from a study done in 2005-2006. Check out your travel provider’s website and learn if they are contributing in any way to improving the conditions of the destinations they serve. For example, major global tour operator, Transat, has made a dedicated effort to support charitable organizations who improve conditions at the destinations they serve. Check out their sustainable tourism policies and initiatives at: http://www.transat.com/en/corporate.responsibility/sustainable.tourism.aspx
That’s too much work, Ms. Humane Advisor! Besides I’m on a budget and have to buy the cheapest vacation package I can. Okay, that’s reasonable. So here’s my next suggestion. Sponsor a stray animal—dog, cat, horses, or even turtles—at the destination of your choice and stay within your budget. Here’s where I’m going to let you in on a little known fact. There are usually thousands of starving, suffering, and dying stray dogs, cats, and other animals near your luxury hotel. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news, near each of the resorts that you visit are organizations working to save the lives of these unwanted animals. Here’s a short list of organizations that you can check out before you leave or while on vacation if you just HAVE to have your smart phone in one hand and a pina colada in the other:
CANDi-Cats and Dogs International: www.candiinternational.org. This international organization works directly with the travel industry to save the lives of animals in resort destinations. One quick thing you could do would be to ask your travel supplier, “Um…so have you heard of CANDi and do you support them?” If they say no, what’s a CANDi?–send their corporate headquarters an email telling them that they should find this organization and work with CANDi President Darci Galati to set up CANDi’s easy-to-implement programs that will save countless dogs, cats, horses, turtles, etc. Plus, your $20 donation will spay or neuter one of these animals and prevent the birth of thousands of new puppies or kittens who otherwise are born into lives of suffering.
If you are a snorkeling or scuba fanatic whose vacation is spent on Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun, stop by and see Alison at Isla Animals: http://islaanimals.org/. She has saved—count’em—5,017 dogs since 1999. But Alison and her husband, Jeff, are puppy maniacs so a small warning–be prepared to find yourself with a puppy companion for the way home.
Tierra de Animales: http://www.tierradeanimales.org/. This is the home of the Cancun Dog Whisperer, Ricardo Pimental, who saves Mexican street dogs by the hundreds. He is a true hero and if you are in or near Cancun and feel the need to get away from the tourist thang, go and visit the Sanctuary. It is amazing! Bring a couple of bags of dog food and you will have over 130 new canine friends for life.
Vacationing near Playa del Carmen? Got a few free hours and love cats? Stop by Coco’s Cat Rescue (http://www.cocoscatrescue.org) for kitten cuddling! Wow! Now that’s living! Purrrrrrr-fect!
Other groups around the Cancun area that you should check out include:
Cancun Animal Rescue: http://www.cancunanimalrescue.org
Animalistas Cancun: http://facebook.com/ANIMALISTASCANCUN
Jaguar’s Cats: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jaguars-Cats/219170731443458
In the Dominican Republic and love horses? Check out a group that rescues and rehabilitates the working horses of Santo Domingo: http://sodoprecadr1.blogspot.com/
So you get the picture. Trust me on this. There is no better feeling than helping from your vacation hammock. Multiply that wonderful feeling a million times if you actually step away from the resort for a couple of hours to check out these magnificent organizations. The azure blue of the sea and the warmth of the sun will seem a little more beautiful once you have made the tiniest effort to help. So go home with a tan, that souvenir pottery and pareo, and maybe even a dog or cat. They will be eternally grateful and you will have the vacation memory of a lifetime.
 American Pet Products Association, “Industry Statistics & Trends,” available at http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp.