Tourists Who Care About Animals Want Humane Travel Options

Successful CEO Thinks Travel Corporations Should Know That Tourists Who Care About Animals Will Buy From Companies Who Show They Care Too

Bobbie Theodore–CEO and Philanthropist

A Tourist Who Cares

It was her dream—a honeymoon vacation in the gorgeous South Pacific. But then Bobbie Theodore came face-to-face with a scrawny, sickly looking dog that nobody in Tahiti seemed to care about. Except for her. Bobbie spent the better part of a whole day of her honeymoon trying to find veterinarian care for the suffering dog but the stray animal problem on the island paradise was so pervasive and common that her pleas for help fell on deaf ears. It tinged her memories of this special trip with sadness.

For Bobbie, the plight of this dog weighed heavily on her then and continues to trouble her still. Particularly after having many more similar experiences with stray animals all over the world, in the Ukraine, Mexico, cruise ports, and other international destinations that she’s traveled to. Now she’s determined to help strays by lending her time, talents, and resources to empower tourists like herself who care about animals and also enlist travel corporation support to fund solutions.

Bobbie Theodore and her family

Mobilizing the Mobile Masses

Smart phones are in every pocket or hand bag these days. Through Facebook, we know exactly what our global friends or colleagues are having for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We are connected beyond what anyone could have imagined even ten years ago.

Bobbie thinks reaching the millions of tourists who care is the answer to helping animals at tourist destinations. “[Tourists] need to be mobilized to speak up, to show that animal welfare affects their travel decisions and experiences. I think so many tourists, me included, accept that poor conditions are part of the culture of a country. While they get sad about that, they don’t feel empowered to help or don’t know how they can make an impact on such an overwhelming problem. They need education about making humane choices with their travel dollars – and companies need to know that they will.”

Ms. Humane Advisor thinks Bobbie knows what she’s talking about. Building her very successful company, Theodore Business Development, from the ground up, Bobbie knows that consumer demand drives corporate strategies. “[C]onsumers can and should make decisions in line with their passions, and animal lovers certainly do. As I said though, I don’t think that tourists have been offered many options for making humane travel decisions. All hotels now promote how “green” they are, but do any promote how “humane” they are?” Good point, Bobbie. Where are you, humane hotels and resorts? There are millions and millions of us looking for you!

Theodore Family Felines

A Numbers Game That Adds Up to Win-Win

However, Ms. Humane Advisor thinks that maybe these travel businesses just don’t realize how many animal loving tourists there are out there. To give them a little hint, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet industry spending is expected to increase to nearly 53 billion dollars in 2012!! WOW! That’s a lot of kibble and kitty litter. Yessiree! And it’s pretty darn likely that people who spend all this money on their pets obviously have a wee bit of disposable income for vacations and travel using travel providers that support the humane treatment of animals.

Bobbie’s Juarez Mexi-Beagle “Munch”

 Are You Listening, Richard Branson?

These are precisely the type of numbers that a smart and savvy travel corporation can leverage and gain market share in a highly competitive industry by promoting its support for the humane treatment of animals at the destinations they serve. And with her business acumen and not-so-common sense, Bobbie’s just the person to tell Mr. Branson and any other interested travel corporation why helping animals is a win-win strategy for making their customers happy. She loves animals and isn’t afraid to be their voice.

Bobbie’s beloved “Radar” leading the Theodore Pack.

All My Dogs (Except Jasper) Have Been Rescues

In fact, Bobbie says she has adopted pigs, goats, emus, cats, AND several very special rescue dogs. Wait, did she say emu? Holy Crocodile Dundee! But the first love of her life was Jasper the Basset Hound who she (blush) admits she bought from a breeder as her college graduation gift to herself.

Dogs must know she has a weakness for the hairy, four-legged type because one strange dog even hopped into her car off a country road. (Don’t you wonder if the emu was riding in the back seat with its head out of the sun roof at the time?)

Bobbie’s current dogs are from different parts of Mexico, saved through the help of her favorite animal rescue groups. Sick and starving upon arrival in the Theodore household, both are now healthy, content, and thriving in this loving environment.

“Playboy” saved by Tierra de Animales Sanctuary, Cancun, MX, and now a member of the Theodore Pack.

Humane Goals

Galvanized into action by her love for animals and the appalling lack of resources for stray animals at most international tourist destinations, Bobbie plans to become increasingly involved over the next few years with the animal welfare groups that she supports philosophically and financially.

She wants to help these groups provide solutions for animal overpopulation, neglect, and abuse such as large-scale spay and neuter campaigns and humane education. Though she feels that there’s only so much you can do on the humane education front however, when people are in survival mode themselves. Instead, she believes that a logical, economical approach to broad solutions through government and private partnerships can have an impact. For example, one of her favorite animal welfare groups, Compassion Without Borders, has worked with government officials in Mexico to implement much-needed humane euthanasia policies and procedures.

Amazing intentions from an amazing woman. Like she has already done for her rescued dogs, pigs, goats, and that gosh darn emu, you can bet that with Bobbie’s committed, caring heart, and keen business sense, she will make an even bigger difference for countless animals through her efforts. We can’t wait to check in with her again soon for a progress report.

“Playboy” lives up to his name and gives us his best Latin Lover soulful eyes!

Links to Bobbie’s Favorite Animal Rescue Groups

(Please “like” them on Facebook to show your support for their good work!)

Compassion Without Borders
www.cwob.org
www.facebook.com/compassion.borders
Island Dog Inc.
www.islanddog.org
www.facebook.com/IslandDogInc
Lost Dog Foundation
www.lostdogfoundation.org
Tierra de Animales
www.tierradeanimales.org
www.facebook.com/tierradeanimales

 

 

My Universe Will Never Be the Same–My First Volunteer Experience at a CANDi Spay and Neuter Clinic in Cancun

With a little tweaking, the catchy lyrics to that hit pop song invading our ear space these days, “Glad You Came,” by The Wanted, come close to capturing what it means to be a volunteer at one of CANDi’s spay and neuter clinics in Cancun, Mexico. Once you’re in the middle of a clinic in full swing and for the rest of your life, you’ll be glad you came.

Recently, CANDi announced that it will be conducting its 8th clinic from November 5-9, 2012, with the help of its wonderful local animal rescue partners and travel industry sponsors. Reading the event announcement prompted memories of my first experience as a volunteer at one of these events so I thought what the heck, it’s a Friday, I’ll take a stroll down memory lane.

A Heart Full of Hope and a Suitcase Full of Puppy Pads, Leashes and Collars

On that long plane ride down to my first CANDi clinic in October 2010, I had plenty of time to wonder what the heck I had gotten myself into. Traveling alone to the Yucatan to help sterilize animals was exhilarating yet also a tad bit scary for a middle-aged woman who closes her eyes at the teeniest sign of blood and gore–even in the movies. Gulp. But my commitment to helping the stray dogs in Cancun who had captured my heart a few years earlier made me determined to experience the on-the-ground work this great organization was doing to make a difference.

In preparation, I had filled one suitcase with whatever supplies that I thought might be helpful; puppy pads, bright collars and leashes, plastic rain ponchos, baby wipes, etc. Oh, and of course, my own personal tropical vacation essentials:  a few bottles of wine and corkscrew along with sunscreen.

My second suitcase was full of what I thought was the proper attire for a spay and neuter clinic–sneakers, capri’s, tank tops, and baseball caps. By the end of that week, every piece of clothing, pair of shoes, and head gear I had brought was covered in mud, blood, random animal body fluids and solids, and smelled like unwashed street dogs. It was awesome.

No Time to Enjoy the Luxury

We CANDi volunteers were lucky enough to stay in donated rooms at a lovely hotel in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The pool and beach palapas were calling my name but as it turned out, the only free time I had to catch any sun was on the morning of the day that I flew home. Sigh. Sad but I saved a lot of  dough on umbrella drinks and cervesas.

No Time for the Pool

On the night before the clinic, after a quick CANDi volunteer meeting, I managed to connect to a few other volunteers staying at the hotel including a vet tech and vet from Canada, Brittany and Christy, who turned out to be hardworking professionals AND super fun young ladies. Also, a husband and wife team, Tammy and Tim, who are amazingly dedicated and kind. These folks set the bar pretty high for the other volunteers I would meet.

Dr. Christy, Brittany, Tim, and Tammy–Volunteers Extraordinaire

12 Hour Days and Barking Dogs

On the first day of the clinic we headed out to the neighborhood of Corales, where local groups including Mejora tu Entorno AC and Animalistas Cancun, had arranged for an old school building to be used for the clinic. It had already been cleaned and swept by the time we got there and it didn’t take long for the surgery and recovery areas to be set up. These volunteers knew what they were doing.

We soon had several local vets join us ready to start snipping away. It was a good thing because there were already dozens of people lined up in the hot sun with their pets waiting for our doors to open.

Waiting for the Clinic to Start

The rest of the day was a blur of activity. Due to my extreme squeamishness, I was quickly assigned to walking the stray dogs that were rounded up from the neighborhood to be fixed, for their potty breaks along with other random but very important tasks like holding an icepack to a male dog’s private parts to take down the swelling. Good thing he was so sweet and appreciative.

Ms. Humane Advisor in Action!

Hard Work But Someone Has to Do It!

There was one little stray girl who I immediately fell in love with and she became my constant companion for the next few days. She had been picked up by someone in the road near the clinic and after an examination by fun and dedicated Dr. Christy, she was found to be severely anemic and full of worms and parasites. But this little girl, who we named Harmony, had found her way to the right place because she was quickly given the medications she needed to get her strength back. It was amazing to see her improve before my very eyes over the next few days.

Harmony–The First Day of the Clinic

Harmony Later in the Week

After day one at the clinic, my own dogs (aka feets) were barking up a storm and it was all I could do when we got back to the hotel to take a shower, make it down to dinner, slug back a glass of wine, and crawl between the clean sheets. But as tired as my body was, my head was racing with the images of the day remembering all the stray cats and dogs that were brought in by local rescue groups like Rescate Malix, Tierra de Animales, Animalistas Cancun, Coco’s Cat Rescue, and Jaguar’s Cats. They were in such bad shape—skinny, loaded with fleas, ears crammed full of hideous little brown ticks, horrible venereal diseases and tumors, and suffering from terrible skin conditions like mange. Of the hundreds of animal diseases or parasites that exist in this world, it seemed that every cat or dog that walked in or was carried through our clinic doors was suffering from one or more of these conditions. Somehow we fixed ‘em so they couldn’t have any more unwanted kittens or puppies, cleaned ‘em up, and found homes for most of the ones that needed them.

Starving Puppies with Tummies Full of Worms and Parasites

Cancun Street Dog with Mange and Eye Infection

So as satisfying as the hard work had been, my heart was even more broken by the reality and extent of the suffering. I sobbed myself to sleep that night. A pattern that continued each and every night during the rest of that week.

Every Animal Matters

We were sterilizing between 125-150 animals each day that week. The vets worked nonstop, sometimes on their feet for over 12 hours, only taking breaks at mealtimes or to use the bathroom. Cat after cat and dog after dog came across their tables and every one of these animals was treated with kindness and care.

Vets Hard at Work

Saving Lives

There was one incident during my first clinic experience that I will never forget and it happened when I was assigned to watch the breathing and vitals on a female dog, Little Red Dog I called her, whose surgery had been a little more complicated because she had a tumor in her uterus. It was nerve-wracking for me because of my squeamish tendencies and it soon became even more stressful when she started bleeding heavily from her incision, soaking the bandage with her blood. Dr. Christy wrapped the bandage tighter and told me to keep watching her and keeping her warm.

Ms. Humane Advisor and Little Red Dog

Over the next hour or so, Little Red Dog began to wake up from the anesthesia and she was obviously in pain. Soon she started to vomit and the vomit was black. This was no good (internal bleeding or something bad) and meant she might not recover. In the short time that I had spent with Little Red Dog, I had became attached to her so I was crushed by her prognosis and asked what we could do for her. Laura Raikes, the smart and beautiful founder of Coco’s Cat Rescue in Playa del Carmen and my hero that day, took one look at my face (crunched up and about to cry) and came up with the idea of doing a blood transfusion. She went on to make it happen and sat there administering the blood transfusion to this dog for over 2 hours with the help of Dr. Christy and the other vets. During all of this drama, Little Red Dog’s owner stayed with his beloved pet until she was okay enough to go home with him.

The Little Red Dog and Her Dad

The next day he stopped at the clinic to bring back the kennel he used to transport Little Red Dog home and let us know that she was doing fine. Don’t tell anyone but I ran outside of the building and cried.

But it’s moments like these that made it all worthwhile. The mess, the pain, the personalities, the self-doubts, and all the other crap that comes along with doing important and meaningful work. Saving each and every animal is worth it.

Cancun Puppies with Mange

Your Turn to Tell Your Own Stories

There are so many more stories that I could share (and probably will someday) about my first CANDi spay and neuter clinic and the incredible people and animals I met. But I’m ending here because I want to encourage you all to go and have your own experiences so you can tell your own stories. There are volunteer opportunities everywhere to match your passion–whatever it is.

Even though getting out of your comfort zone isn’t easy, it makes you and the world a better place. I cried a lot of tears, my heart was broken over and over, and I swore I wouldn’t do it again, but guess what? I went to the CANDi clinic again last year and I’m going again this year. Seeing the suffering of these animals and the commitment of the local and international volunteers who work to save them reminds me of what how desperate the need is. Especially when I’m writing proposals to travel corporations explaining why they should help CANDi continue these clinics. So participating in the clinics helps me say what needs to be said with truth, integrity, and personal knowledge.

So go have an adventure or two. You might even find a new calling or reinvent yourself while you’re doing it. One thing is certain. Your universe will never be the same.

Thanks for reading!

Ms. Humane Advisor

P.S. Please share your comments to encourage others to volunteer if you have had a similar adventure(s) that changed your life and touched your heart!

P.P.S. And support the CANDi November 2012 Sterilization Clinic with a donation in any amount. Just $20 will pay for the spay or neuter of one stray cat or dog and help us end the suffering. Here’s where to donate:  http://www.candiinternational.org/get-involved/ways-to-give

Cancun Skies

Humane Hero – An Animal Lover on Vacation Speaks Out for One Small Stray Dog and Changes the World for Many

To many of us, India seems a magical place that ranks high on our travel “bucket list.” Gorgeous palaces built in the name of love, spiritualism, meditation and yogis, and delicious curry dishes all appeal to our taste for exotic destinations.

For those of you who have visited India and/or seen the 2008 hit movie, “Slumdog Millionaire,” there is a different but still compelling perception and appeal. This could be due to the fact that India is a growing country filled with opportunities but also facing many challenges. The estimated population for India in July 2012 is 1.2 billion people according to the CIA World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html), second only to China. The geographic size of the country is slightly less than one third of the U.S. Wow. That’s a lot of human beings. As in many large countries, animals and people in India must share limited resources. International animal welfare organization Mayhew International estimates the stray dog population in India at 15-20 million dogs. Wow again. That’s a lot of stray dogs.

Recently, a friend shared a story with me about an encounter she had with a stray dog while on vacation in India. It was not an easy story for her to tell and for me to write and I imagine it will be a hard one to read but for healing changes to happen, it must be told.

A Trip to Remember

Married for many years, it was one of Amy and Kurt’s dreams to visit India. They saved their hard earned money and put together a modest travel budget that included tours through the countryside, a visit to a wildlife sanctuary, and one splurge stay at a luxury hotel.

Local Women in India

During their trip, Amy, an avid animal lover, repeatedly noticed many stray dogs that were uncared for in the streets of the villages and towns that she traveled through. In an interesting contrast, she also saw many people walking their obviously beloved dogs (sporting pet clothing such as jackets ala Paris Hilton!) who were showering their pets with affection.

Alternate forms of transportation in India

After several days of traveling through other parts of India, the couple finally arrived at their luxury hotel where they planned to take full advantage of the opulent amenities available to them.

The second night at the hotel, Amy and Kurt were watching a glorious sunset with a few other tourists when Amy noticed a ruckus outside of their hotel.

Indian Sunset

Already videotaping the glorious sunset, Amy swung her camera around to follow three hotel staff members chasing a small dog across a field. Zooming in, to her dismay and disgust, she saw that one of the staff members had caught the animal and was kneeling on the small dog’s neck. Then another staff member picked up the now-limp dog and placed it in what appeared to be a plastic bag and tied it shut, carrying it with him away.

Outraged and not wanting to believe her eyes, Amy screamed down to the staff member asking what was going on and if that was a dog in the bag but she was ignored by the men. The other tourists sharing the sunset view who had also witnessed the event became uncomfortable and began to leave. In Amy’s opinion, she thought they did not want to spoil their vacation experience by acknowledging what had just occurred right in front of them.

Amy was dumbfounded and in shock but went off to try and enjoy a nice dinner with her husband. However, that wasn’t going to be the case. During dinner, Amy could not shake the image of this cruel act and she became determined to do something. Fueling her outrage, Amy had also noticed there was a pack of pitifully thin, neglected stray dogs outside the restaurant so she and Kurt saved the Indian bread, “naan,” served with their meal and fed it to the dogs when they left.

Back at the hotel, Amy immediately asked to speak to the hotel manager. After a short wait, a hotel manager came out and she quickly explained to him what she saw and informed him that she had captured this incident on her video camera. Asked to wait in her room while another staff member, a loss prevention manager, was contacted, Amy went on the internet and looked up animal rescue shelters in the area then attempted to reach me, Ms. Humane Advisor.

About thirty minutes later, Amy was asked to come down to talk to the hotel loss prevention manager via the telephone in the hotel desk manager’s office. By this time, she had decided on a plan and knew what she was going to do. Immediately, both the hotel desk manager and the loss prevention manager attempted to manipulate her and refused to take responsibility for the hotel staff harming the dog. They informed her that the mother dog had come onto the property through a hole in the wall and that she had given birth to two puppies. They stated that she then became aggressive towards guests. Protecting her puppies, no doubt.

Growing more upset by the minute, Amy finally demanded that she be allowed to express herself with no further interruptions by the two hotel managers. Inside, she was extremely distressed and knew she had to settle down to get her thoughts out. She said that she recalled a saying she had heard, “speak your mind even if your voice shakes” so taking a deep breath, she started talking. Though she felt oddly like she was in a movie scene playing a part, she knew she had to be strong and stand up for the little dog she saw hurt and most likely killed. So she made herself calmly explain to the hotel managers that she had videotaped the horrifying incident and that she had many connections in the animal rights community in the United States. Continuing on, Amy expressed her deep disappointment with how the situation was handled, regardless of why the dog was there or why the hotel wanted it removed. Bravely, she stated that she expected a donation to be made to a local animal rescue organization and demanded that a formal policy on how to deal with strays on hotel properties be implemented throughout this entire major international hotel chain. At that point, the hotel managers must have known she meant business because they told Amy they would discuss her request and meet with her the next day.

Many feelings surfaced for Amy after this stressful encounter. She felt badly that she was taking time away from her husband and their dream vacation together. She was also scared mostly because she was in a foreign country negotiating with hotel managers who had obvious disdain for dealing with a female. Yet, she also felt excited to have an opportunity to help even just one innocent and lonely dog in this faraway place.

The next morning Amy and her husband sat down with the hotel loss prevention manager. He apologized for the manner in which the dog was handled. Although he would never admit that the dog had been killed, he stated that a local animal rescue group had been contacted and that he had begun writing a new policy regarding stray animals that morning for the hotel chain. For these concessions, Amy agreed not to release her videotape of the incident or name the hotel chain. She went one step further and took this opportunity to explain to the hotel loss prevention manager that by creating animal-friendly policies, the hotel chain could market themselves as being sensitive to the plights of stray animals.

Later during their trip, Amy received a call from this hotel loss prevention manager informing her that a meeting had been held with the animal rescue group and a donation had been made by the hotel. This was confirmed upon her return home, when Amy received emails of the receipt for the donation from hotel to the animal rescue group and a copy of the new hotel policy regarding stray animals. Although she could not save this small dog that she believed was cruelly killed, Amy felt good that she had stood up for the little dog’s rights and that both of her puppies were saved and humanely removed to the rescue group’s care.

Broken Hearts and Humane Solutions

Such a heartbreaking story for Ms. Humane Advisor to have to tell. An innocent little mommy dog cruelly killed because she was trying to find a safe place for her puppies and protect them from men like the hotel staff. I don’t know about you but I’ve been wiping away more than a few tears. But there is hope for this little mommy dog’s puppies now as a result of the solutions that Amy bravely championed in her negotiations with this hotel chain. Amy (one smart cookie!) hit upon the only solutions that make any sense for sustainable change–Implementing new policies to guide businesses in making humane choices and enlisting business support via donations for the animal rescue groups that work to make these changes.

Stray puppies rescued near an international tourist destination.

Imagine if all of us travelers demanded this level of humane treatment for animals from our travel providers? You may remember these statistics from last week’s post but here they are again:  9.1% of our global GDP comes from travel and international tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion annually by 2030. Just think of what these numbers could mean for animals.

We can all help this initiative by speaking out for the starving and mistreated stray cats and dogs, the overburdened working animals like carriage horses and burros, the neglected and abused captive animals like marine animals and exotic cats who suffer at animal attractions, every time we book a vacation.

Injured working horse being treated

Ask the travel providers you use (Expedia, Bookit.com, Transat, United Airlines, Carnival Cruises, any hotel chain, etc.) if they have policies about the humane treatment of animals at the vacation destinations they sell you a ticket to visit. If not, tell them that it’s important to you and you want to spend your money with a company that shares your concerns about animals. It might take an extra five minutes to call or write an email about this issue but it might mean that one less mommy dog is killed trying to save her puppies. Using our wallets and our voices, WE can help these animals. Okay, that’s my soapbox moment for this post. You all know what to do.

A Role Model for Humane Travelers

Amy’s quick mind, strong will, and kind heart make her a true hero for animals and a role model for humane travelers in Ms. Humane Advisor’s book. She moved past her fear of embarrassment and discomfort to demand change and she didn’t let the fact that she was on vacation in a strange place deter her from doing the right thing. As hard and inconvenient as it was, she didn’t just brush it off and close her eyes to inhumanity. Her voice became the little mommy dog’s voice.

Humane Hero Amy and her husband, Kurt

Thank you, Amy. You inspired the heck out of me. Imagine if we all cared this much? Imagine if we all did a little something every day to help animals? I know in my heart that all of you care enough to help but sometimes you just need a little nudge. That’s what your Ms. Humane Advisor is here for.

Closing (and hopeful) thoughts from one of my favorite philosophers, Dr. Seuss.

“You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

(Available  from Random House Children’s Books at www.seussville.com)

OLÉ OLÉ TO A SPANISH ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION THAT SAYS NO MORE BULL (FIGHTING)! AND SÍ SÍ TO HELPING ANIMALS THROUGH TOURISM!

With an astounding 9.1% of global GDP coming from travel and tourism according to BSR Consulting, it is clear that we all love to see new places, experience different cultures, and make new friends. The UN estimates that international tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion annually by 2030. Wow. That’s a lot of free peanuts and checked baggage fees! Numbers like these may not mean anything to most of us except that we need to get our seat assignments ASAP for any upcoming trips. But to an exciting and progressive international animal welfare organization like FAADA (www.faada.org) in Spain, all these travelers mean one thing—more opportunities to change the world and make it a better place for animals.

 
Ms. Humane Advisor first learned about FAADA in Costa Rica when their representative Giovanna Constantini presented an overview of FAADA’s Responsible Tourism (http://turismo-responsable.com/) campaign at a WSPA conference.

Giovanna Constantini – FAADA

I was immediately impressed by the passion, commitment and creativity that this organization puts into their mission of leveraging the power of tourism to help animals.

So I thought I’d check back in with the folks at FAADA to see what they have been doing in 2012 so far and learn more about the people who make it happen to share with my readers.

MARCH 2012 INTERVIEW WITH FAADA PR COORDINATOR JENNIFER BERENGUERAS

I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Jennifer Berengueras, Public Relations Coordinator for FAADA in Spain.

Jennifer Berengueras – FAADA PR

Jennifer has dedicated her career to helping animals and is deeply committed to educating the travel industry and travelers on how their support can make a difference for animals. At university, she concentrated her studies in environmental science, ecology and species conservation which help her craft FAADA programs that present ecologically and biodiversity-friendly solutions for tourism. Along with contributing to ongoing FAADA campaigns such as helping local animal shelters, rescuing and adopting out companion animals, rescuing wild animals from the exotic pet trade, and campaigning for the protection of wild animals held in circuses and zoos, Jennifer has campaigns planned for 2012 to inform people of the negative consequences of abandoning turtles in city parks, of the inhumane effects of using wild animals for advertising, and of the problems of captive dolphins and other cetaceans in marine animal exhibits. Whew! I’m tired just reading about all the good work she’s doing!

FAADA Saves Tortugas!

Impressively, Jennifer explains that FAADA has been instrumental in big projects such as working towards the ban of bull fighting in the region of Catalunya in Spain but says she is also very proud of the smaller accomplishments which she feels lead to a better world for animals. These include getting many towns not to accept circuses with wild animals and working with clothing companies not to use fur in their products. Also, for their Responsible Tourism campaign, FAADA has convinced many travel agencies to stop booking animal attractions for their customers such as elephant rides or swimming with the dolphins.

FAADA’s For the Protection of Dolphins Campaign
http://faada.org/causas-16-delfinarios

Jennifer, I have to say that I think your small accomplishments are looking quite extraordinary in Ms. Humane Advisor’s opinion!

I asked Jennifer if there was one story of an animal that especially touched her and though she was quick to say that every animal FAADA has helped holds a special place in her heart; she did share a story about two elderly circus tigers that were rescued. When the tigers were taken to a spacious sanctuary to live the rest of their lives in freedom and with dignity, Jennifer recalled seeing one of the tiger’s first reactions. “I will never forget Nepal’s reaction when he literally bumped into a flower (the first one, sadly, he’d seen in the 14 years of his life), the way he looked at it, touched it and started playing with it. Moments like this make all our efforts worth it!”

FAADA’s InfoCircos Campaign
http://www.infocircos.org

Amen to that, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing Nepal’s story. Hearing about these moments keep me motivated too.

Jennifer’s work with FAADA has exposed her to many cruel practices towards animals but she remains optimistic. “Most people do things that harm animals, either directly or indirectly, because of a lack of information. Most times people don’t think that for them to eat ham, for example, an animal has been caged and deprived of even the most basic movements like turning around. People don’t think that for them to ride on an elephant, it have previously been trained through a brutal method they call “breaking their soul.” People are unaware that the trimming of their coat’s hood is made of the fur of a fox that was caged and suffered [to] madness. And [there's] a long, long list of things we do in our everyday life and for which we ignore their consequences on animals.” In Jennifer’s opinion, the best thing someone can do to make a difference is to be informed; read, learn, and act accordingly.

FAADA’s Anti-Fur Campaign
http://faada.org/causas-2-peleteria

As you know, Ms. Humane Advisor is also an eternal optimist so I had to ask Jennifer if she had one wish for animals and the world, what would it be? She said “I wish one day humans can live in harmony with the rest of inhabitants of the Planet. A lifestyle that does not harm animals is possible and…easy!” Jennifer is a woman after my own heart.
Another exciting project that FAADA has put together recently is an incredible tour and vacation itinerary with one of its partner travel agencies. It will be a 100 percent animal-friendly trip to Costa Rica where the tourists will visit local shelters and animal welfare organizations. Even better, half of the price of the trip will be used to help animals!

FAADA’s 100% Animal Friendly Vacation! 

These are the kinds of creative solutions for animal welfare that make Ms. Humane Advisor very, very happy.

Thank you, Jennifer, for telling us about FAADA and your work. It was an honor to have had this opportunity to hear about just a few of FAADA’s innovative and successful campaigns. I hope my readers enjoyed it as much as I did.

P.S:

Please make sure you show your support for their efforts and “like” FAADA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Turismo-Responsable-FAADA/341334085881403) and follow them on Twitter @FAADA.org.
          I LIKE FAADA!

Leaving a Place Better Than You Found It – Why I Work to Save the Cats and Dogs of Mexico

Grab yourself a cup of coffee because this is a long one! But well worth the few minutes it will take to read. Trust your Humane Advisor on this.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents. They were simple, hard-working folks who lived through many challenging life experiences. I learned a lot from them about my place in the world and how to live life with integrity. One of the strongest lessons that they ever taught me was that it was my responsibility to leave a place better than I found it. This meant any place—a park where you threw your own trash away along with someone else’s forgotten litter or a workplace where you treated your coworkers with respect.

Many times people ask me why do you have to go to Mexico to help animals when there are plenty of cats and dogs to rescue in Los Angeles? Well, one reason that I tell them is that when I had my first encounter with a starving dog near Cancun, it became my responsibility to leave this place better than I found it.

Nova, the Mexican stray that changed my life.

But there are other reasons too. Especially when I began to learn more and more shocking truths about how stray cats and dogs are treated in Mexico. Did you know that in order to control the stray animal population, cats and dogs are regularly electrocuted, poisoned, and drowned? In fact, there’s a good chance that the luxury resort where you vacation poisons the stray animals that venture onto the property.

Stray mother cat in Playa del Carmen. Photo courtesy of Coco’s Cat Rescue (www.cocoscatrescue.org).

Or that there are massive animal killings like the one in August 2011 where the mayor of a town in Sonora, MX, paid locals $20 USD for each stray dog that was brought in—dead or alive. $20 USD is a lot of money for these families so it can be assumed that in many cases family pets were sacrificed to get the bounty. Heartbreaking.

The following photo of the event was on Facebook and it has haunted me since the day it was posted. Innocent dogs thrown in a pile like trash. A total of 17,000 dogs were killed in this cull and not one of them deserved to die and especially not by whatever inexpensive and inhumane method that did the trick. I still have nightmares.

Some of the dogs killed in August 2011 cull in Sonora, MX. Photo courtesy of Hablemos Animales (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hablemos-de-Animales/133992159973627)

There was no Humane Society or SPCA or PETA like we have in the U.S. and Canada to save them. There were no animal protection laws or if there were, they weren’t enforced. And even more sadly, for the price of the $20 USD bounty on these dogs, local animal rescue organizations like Tierra de Animales could have spayed/neutered each dog and provided a permanent solution to stray animal overpopulation. That’s why we (I use “we” to include all the amazing international animal rescue organizations that have the same mission) work to save cats and dogs in Mexico.

Then I learned that one unsterilized female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in just six years and one unsterilized female cat and her offspring can produce as many as 425,000 kittens in seven years. Mindboggling!

Puppies on the beach in Cancun.

And did you know that tragically about 80 percent of newborn kittens and puppies born in Mexico die before the age of eight weeks from parasites, disease, starvation, or cruelty?

My Cancun rescue dog, Maya, was brought in from the street with four puppies. Only two survived.

Maya and her puppies in the streets of Cancun. Photo courtesy of Monica Chavarria of Proanimal Cancun

If Maya had not been rescued by Monica Chavarria of Proanimal Cancun and adopted by me, she would have most likely died alone and suffering in the streets of Cancun within a year from disease, starvation, thirst, and abuse.

Maya and her new mom, Ms. Humane Advisor. Photo courtesy of Isaura Turcotte (www.mejoratuentornomexico.org).

That’s why we work to save cats and dogs in Mexico. Keep reading for more reasons.

Good News

Every day the pages of Facebook tell the stories of cats and dogs in Mexico who are rescued and sent to new lives in the U.S. and Canada by wonderful international animal rescue groups such as Pet Project Rescue (www.petprojectrescue.com), WHARF (www.wharfrescue.ca/), and Pawsitive Match Rescue (www.pawsitivematch.org) with the support of corporate sponsors. These organizations do AMAZING work and would love more wonderful corporations and individuals to step forward to help.

Now I’d like to share a couple of these special stories with you. It’s impossible to read these stories (I double dog dare you to try) and not understand why we all work to save the cats and dogs in Mexico. Oh and also why we go to all this trouble to save just one cat or dog.

RINO

Rino is a Cancun street dog who was found suffering from severe and painful mange and other health problems. He was rehabilitated by Monica Chavarria of Pro Animal Cancun and Rino is now heading to Canada in January 2012, for a glorious new life. Look at the difference from when Rino was first found and how beautiful that face is now! Was it worth it to save the life of one dog? What do you think? Dang right it was!

WOW! What a difference TLC makes! Photo courtesy Monica Chavarria of Proanimal Cancun.

NACHO

Nacho was rescued by Laura Raikes and the good folks at Coco’s Cat Rescue Playa del Carmen (www.cocoscatrescue.org) after he was run over by a car in the streets of Mexico and suffered a severely broken femur. Can you imagine the pain? After extensive orthopedic surgery, this little guy was sent to Canada so super animal rescuers Tessa and Ashley Lee of WHARF-Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation (www.wharfrescue.ca/) could help find him a home. He’s still looking for a family to love and pamper him. Contact WHARF if he’s the man you want purring on your lap during the rest of the long, cold winter! Also, both Coco’s and WHARF are nonprofit organizations that could use your donations to keep saving kittens like Nacho.

 

Nacho the Mexican Kitten. Photo courtesy of WHARF (www.wharfrescue.ca/).

LUNA

Luna was one of over 170 street dogs rescued and brought to live at Tierra de Animales, (www.tierradeanimales.org) an animal sanctuary outside of Cancun, MX, by Ricardo Pimentel. Scared and starving, Ricardo found Luna in the city pound and rescued her. Many municipal pounds in Mexico avoid giving food or water to the cats or dogs so they will not have to clean up urine or feces. That means until they are euthanized by electrocution, poisoning, or drowning, the dogs spend their time in cold dirty cells, starving and thirsty. Horrible horrible horrible. Imagine the suffering. But not this time. Lucky Luna was adopted by a wonderful family and flew to Canada in December 2011. Many thanks to the most amazing man in Mexico, Ricardo Pimentel, for saving Luna! Check out an awesome video about the dogs at Tierra de Animales (http://youtu.be/RIYyzUXZg8M) and then maybe adopt a TdA dog (contact Lisa Edwards at helpmexicandogs@hotmail.com) or send a donation to help them out through Paypal at donate@helpmexicandogs.org.

 

Luna (front right) in the Perrara (pound) before rescue. Photo courtesy of Tierra de Animales (www.tierradeanimales.org).

Luna in Canada with her wonderful new family getting all the love she deserves! Photo courtesy of Tierra de Animales (www.tierradeanimales.org).

Rino, Nacho, and Luna are the lucky ones who were saved because they were rescued in time and there were resources available to take care of them.

Here are two stories of dogs that were not so fortunate. Again, it’s impossible to read these stories (and I triple dare you not to cry) and not understand why we all work to save the cats and dogs in Mexico.

Not So Good News

Cora

Cora was found on the streets of Cancun on January 5, 2012, shivering, too weak to stand or eat, by a local animal rescuer, Patricia Enriqueta Godoy Santini. Patricia had no car to pick up Cora and bring her to safety. Patricia already has 16 dogs and 9 cats from the streets in her home that she has rescued. A call to action was issued for local animal rescuers and soon Cora was rushed to the vet in Cancun but it was too late and she died in the arms of Cancun animal advocate Evelyne Gerault on January 10, 2012. Thank you to all who tried to save Cora.

Cora, alone and dying in the streets of Cancun. Photo courtesy of Claudia Gonzalez Comacho.

Cora at the vet’s office. Photo courtesy of Claudia Gonzalez Camacho.

ANGEL

Found in the streets of Cancun, this tiny (she weighed less than ten pounds) girl was in severe pain from a horrible skin condition and suffering from other debilitating diseases that her weakened little body could not fight. I met Angel in person and she was the sweetest baby ever. You could see the suffering in her eyes but she didn’t make a sound when she was being tended to even though the pain must have been excruciating. RIP little girl. Your suffering is over. Thanks to Angie Santana at Rescate Malix (www.rescatemalix.org) for providing safety, relief from pain, and love during her final days. Please support Angie’s efforts to educate the public about the humane treatment of dogs like Angel through awareness programs aimed at children, young adults, families and the general population.

 

Angel, a street dog who fought to live.

I’ll give you a minute to wipe your tears and blow your nose before I continue.

Do You Need Any More Reasons Why We (And You Should Too!) Work to Save the Cats and Dogs of Mexico?

Now that you know the horror, the suffering, and the pain that exists, my grandparents (if they were here) would suggest that it is your responsibility to leave a place better than you found it. And yes, I am on my soapbox here!

But Cora and Angel died because we ALL need to work to save the cats and dogs of Mexico. Without our help, thousands and thousands of animals will continue to die. There are no multi-million dollar rescue organizations like the Humane Society, SPCA, Best Friends, or North Shore Animal League coming to the rescue of these cats or dogs. But with your support, local organizations can make enormous changes to save them.

Further, it is clear that the people of Mexico do not have the resources to support an initiative of this magnitude. An average worker makes $300 a month. But we do. Some of you who are reading this now can do small things to help such as sharing this blog post or connecting to the rescue groups mentioned above on Facebook and donating a few dollars every month. It adds up! You already know that $20 USD will spay/neuter a cat or dog and prevent the birth of THOUSANDS of unwanted kittens or puppies. $5 a week for 4 weeks or even $5 a month over 4 months can make that happen.

Cancun kittens rescued by Alex Rolland of Jaguar’s Cats (www.facebook.com/pages/Jaguars-Cats/219170731443458).

And there are some who are reading this blog post that command the resources to support major projects (such as building a permanent sterilization clinic in major cities in Mexico or funding rescue efforts) to help end this suffering through their businesses or personal fortunes. Work with your board to develop that corporate initiative or get your board to work with organizations like Tierra de Animales and Lost Dog Foundation to develop a corporate initiative together. For those who are wondering what to do with their hard-earned nest eggs, what about leaving your legacy where it can save lives and have tremendous impact? The “Cancun Permanent Animal Free Sterilization Clinic” is waiting for your name across the door on a plaque.

Precious, a kitten at Coco’s Cat Rescue Playa del Carmen. Photo courtesy of Coco’s Cat Rescue Playa del Carmen (www.cocoscatrescue.org).

But whatever your capacity to help is, action is needed now because somewhere right at this very minute as you read this there’s a cat like Nacho lying broken in the street that desperately needs help or a dog like Cora or Angel dying a sad, lonely, and cruel death. Please help.

To find out more about the initiatives needed to save cats and dogs in Mexico contact Lisa Edwards at Lost Dog Foundation: helpmexicandogs@hotmail.com

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. It wasn’t an easy read, I know. Now please share this post with your family, friends, network, and on social media sites that you enjoy. The cats and dogs of Mexico will thank you!

Thanks for caring!

A 2012 New Year’s Resolution That Doesn’t Involve Deprivation–Go On Vacation and Save 800 Horses!

If you’re thinking right about now as we tiptoe into the New Year that your 2012 resolution to give up those venti mocha lattes and 22-oz. microbrews wasn’t such a hot idea, here’s another idea for your 2012 resolution list that you might like better. Visit Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic! Nestled like a jewel on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, it offers visitors so many things to see and do. Explore a cacao or sugar cane factory, walk down the first street ever built in the New World post-conquest, or just relax on the dreamy white sand beaches! And did I mention how attractive the people are? Heavenly! This is a New Year’s resolution I can handle.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Oh and there is one more thing you can do in Santo Domingo—SAVE HORSES! Yup, the working horses of Santo Domingo need your help. P.S. You don’t have to travel to this world-class paradise to save a horse but it’s a pretty darn good excuse if you ask Ms. Humane Advisor.

The Working Horses of Santo Domingo

Here’s why the working horses of Santo Domingo need your help

Like many resort destinations, the local economy in Santo Domingo has its challenges. Some workers still rely on horse-drawn carts to bring their goods to market and their working horses still suffer under the hot tropical sun–often starving, thirsty, and mistreated. Why? Zero zip nada dinero. Workers sometimes have to choose between feeding their families and caring for their horses.

Working Horse with Too Full Load

However, a new law in the District of Santo Domingo has made the operation of horse-drawn carts illegal. The horse carts must be replaced by other types of vehicles like motorized carts so the workers can keep on working and earning. BUT there is little-to-no enforcement of this law because…all together now…nada dinero…no money even for the local government!

Injured Working Horse

Enter Marcos Polanco, the founder of local animal rescue group Sodopreca (Sociedad Dominicana para la Prevención de Crueldad a Animales). Marcos is a man determined to make a difference for the horses (and all animals) of Santo Domingo and he has made it his mission in life to enforce the new ban against horse-drawn carts and take these working horses to well-deserved, wonderful new lives at sanctuaries throughout the Dominican Republic. This Caribbean hero for animals has said, “Maybe in my lifetime, through the work we do, I’ll see these horses and all the animals of the Dominican Republic get the proper care and loving homes that they deserve.” I don’t know about you but such dedication brings a tear to my eye.

Marcos Polanco with a rescued working horse in Santo Domingo

 And he and his Sodopreca crew (photo below) patrol the city as unpaid volunteers to help animals. Not an easy or always safe thing to do. Go Marcos and Sodopreca!

SODOPRECA Volunteers

Back to the horses. Marcos has already transported over 60 working horses with the help of a few dedicated volunteers and a borrowed truck. But Marcos estimates that there are still 800 plus horses that need to be rescued. So the brave and intrepid folks of Sodopreca need their own truck and trailer to safely transport the remainder of the working horses. The price of a truck and trailer, however, is beyond their organization’s budget. You know why by now, folks! NADA DINERO!

Volunteers in the streets of Santo Domingo

Okay, you say, that’s great for the horses but what about the workers who need their carts to make a living, Ms. Humane Advisor? Well, here’s the good news. If Sodopreca is able to procure vehicles to move the horses to sanctuaries, the local government has indicated it is willing to step forward and ahem…find the money aka DINERO to replace horse-drawn carts and wagons with vehicles that don’t require animals, encouraging a more humane system that allows local drivers to continue working! How many times have you heard of a win-win like this one lately? Sheesh!

Injured horse being treated

Here’s how you can help

Now I hate to ask when our own economies aren’t doing so hot and we’re all pinching pennies (you might remind me of my NADA DINERO factor here and rightly so) but your donation to help purchase a truck and trailer is all we need to save these noble and beautiful animals from unbelievable suffering. Marcos is taking care of the rest. Your cash donation will contribute to the purchase of the vehicle and trailer needed and also provide continued care of the horses at the sanctuaries. So here’s the skivvy on the estimated costs to save over 800 horses (and make life easier for workers in the Dominican Republic) with your donations:

Estimated costs in U.S. dollars are:

Diesel truck(s), $11,000 USD each

Trailer(s), $3,000 USD each

Total for 1 truck and trailer, $14,000 USD

So think about it. Spread the word. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and any and all social networks. Pass the hat at work, church or your favorite watering hole. Call your rich Uncle Earl or Aunt Buffy who needs a tax write-off. Find a horse lover who likes the idea of these working horses finding their happy-ever-after. Steven Spielberg likes horses! Anybody know him?

Rescued horse in the streets of Santo Domingo

Oh and find Marcos Polanco on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marcossodopreca) to let him know that you think he’s a hero and that you support his efforts on behalf of the animals of the Dominican Republic. And be sure to tell him that Ms. Humane Advisor sent you.

Rising Young Country Music Star is a Hero for Stray Dogs in Mexico

What do you get when you combine an above-and-beyond commitment to saving dogs and amazing musical talent? Country music recording artist Craig Moritz.

Craig Moritz

Craig Moritz (http://www.facebook.com/craigmoritzmusic) is one of country music’s rising stars. With sassy lyrics and catchy melodies, he rocks the stage in Canada and the U.S. But there is another side to this handsome and personable young man. During his free time, he travels to Mexico to save street dogs. WOW!

And if that wasn’t enough, he is the official celebrity spokesperson for CANDi-Cats and Dogs International, a U.S. registered nonprofit organization, helping CANDi raise money for their programs that save the lives of cats and dogs near international resort destinations. In fact, Craig has donated a portion of his latest CD, “Only When You’re Lonely,” and ALL of the proceeds from the sale of his song, “Christmas Down in Mexico,” when you download it from CANDi’s website:  www.candiinternational.org.

Why Craig Became a Hero for Stray Dogs

Craig with stray dog in Cancun, MX

Craig was drawn to CANDi after he witnessed first-hand the suffering of a starving street dog while on vacation in Cuba. In the spring of 2011, he saw CANDi founder, Darci Galati, being interviewed on a news program and immediately contacted her to ask how he could help. That, as they say, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the beginning of a wonderful new partnership. After talking to Craig, Darci knew that he was the real deal and asked him to become CANDi’s official celebrity spokesperson. One of Craig’s first projects was the following public service announcement for tv and radio stations:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6r50ZbFoRs

Then in April 2011, Craig traveled to Cancun, MX, to volunteer at a CANDi dog and cat sterilization clinic. His passion was immediately evident to everyone by his willingness to do anything to help—set up the facility, clean messy kennels, tote dogs and cats from surgery to recovery, and give his love to even the mangiest dog found in the streets or at the local dump. He even took one of the dogs he found at the Cancun dump home!

Here’s a video from that clinic:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hhpxua-vIU

Craig at April 2011 Cancun, MX, CANDi sterilization clinic (photo by Joseph Frazz)

Ms. Humane Advisor became a number one Craig Moritz fan after she witnessed Craig in action at the next CANDi sterilization clinic in October 2011, again in Cancun, MX. I saw the love on Craig’s face as he treated each animal with tenderness.

Craig with a stray after Hurricane Rina rainstorm at October 2011 CANDi sterilization clinic, Cancun, MX

And Craig wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty—or his heart broken, as some of the animals brought in were so sick that the only humane option for them was euthanization. Real men cry, folks, because there were tears in Craig’s eyes many times, especially as he spent time with 2 very sick dogs, holding each of them in his arms for a long time so they knew that they were loved before they peacefully went to sleep forever. And he took YET another dog that he found at the Cancun dump home with him!

Craig with newly rescued (October 2011) Cancun "dump dog" Kramer

A Celebrity Hero Who Truly Walks His Talk

Craig with rescued Cancun "dump dog" Stella (photo by Joseph Frazz)

How Craig finds time to help save stray dogs with his music career is downright amazing. Writing, recording, and touring constantly and he recently shot 3 music videos to support new songs that he will be releasing soon! But somehow he makes the time every day to remind his fans on Facebook and on stage about CANDi and the millions of stray dogs who need homes. And of course, travel to Mexico to help. Craig has already committed to volunteering at the next sterilization clinic that CANDi has organized in January 2012. He’s also raising money for the next clinic in April 2012.

Many of us view celebrities with a skeptical eye. And rightfully so. The Paris Hiltons/Kim Kardashians/Lindsay Lohans of recent media fame have taken shameless self-promotion and self-centeredness down to new lows.

But rest assured—future Country Music Hall of Famer Craig Moritz will always play his music and take care of stray dogs with commitment, generosity, and humility. That’s what heroes do.

Craig at Cancun animal sanctuary, Tierra de Animales (www.tierradeanimales.org)