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.
Tourism Helping Animals
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.
Splish Splashing Towards a Brighter Future
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!
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): www.playaanimalrescue.org
PAR Facebook: www.facebook.com/PlayaAnimalRescue
V2 Incentives: www.v2incentives.com
Fairmont Mayakoba: http://www.fairmont.com/mayakoba-riviera-maya/
Fairmont Mayakoba Pack for a Purpose: http://www.packforapurpose.org/docs/countries/mexico/fairmont-mayakoba.shtml