Humane Hurricane Hits Puerto Rico

By on April 17, 2015 with 67 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

If you knew that there were tens of thousands of street dogs roaming a jurisdiction in the United States and a 95 percent euthanasia rate for the dogs and cats entering the shelters in the area, what would you do?

Well, that is the reality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States and a huge trouble spot for animal welfare. And now, we have a plan to attack the problem.

This week, in an extraordinary series of events – including press conferences, shelter visits, and training programs – The HSUS and the government of Puerto Rico said “no more” to neglect and cruelty. We have launched a Humane Puerto Rico initiative that offers the prospect of turning around decades of problems for animals in this commonwealth of the United States.

“Our children see how we treat these beings. They can learn to love and care for them or to mistreat them,” César A. Miranda Rodríguez, Puerto Rico’s secretary of justice, told assembled police trainees, reporters, and government representatives at a press conference on Wednesday with Secretary of State David Bernier and me. “So if we want a better society tomorrow, we need to build it today.”

At the press conference, we announced an initiative on the island to train hundreds of prosecutors and law enforcement personnel on animal cruelty crimes, a crackdown on puppy mills, a humane education program that we’d lead to reach every K-12 public school student, and new technology and tools for shelters across the island. The HSUS is donating evidence-gathering kits to law enforcement, and this week trained more than 800 prosecutors, law enforcement personnel, animal control workers, and shelter leaders. Our global affiliate, Humane Society International, will be helping with its already initiated low-cost spay-and-neuter programs.

Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Cesar A. Miranda was among the speakers at the press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice César A. Miranda Rodríguez was among the speakers at our press conference. Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AP Images for The HSUS

A highlight of the press conference was the announcement of Executive Order 2015-8, signed by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, memorializing many of the terms of the agreement and pledging cooperation from the government to crack down on animal cruelty and to address the street dog and euthanasia problems.

The HSUS will invest $600,000 initially in these programs, and I expect that will just be the start of our investment in the island.

In traveling to Puerto Rico this week, I was struck by the incredible enthusiasm for this program. The people of Puerto Rico want to do better when it comes to animals, and there are so many caring people there. With the resolve of the government and the resources and training programs of The HSUS, I see a pathway for a far brighter future for animals in the commonwealth, which is about three times the size of the state of Rhode Island, has nearly four million people, and is estimated to have 300,000 street dogs and one million cats, according to local officials.

We are also tremendously excited about meetings with the leadership of the Puerto Rico Veterinary Medical Association and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. The tourism industry has received countless letters from pained visitors who’ve felt helpless in seeing injured or mange-covered street dogs. These experiences have taken a toll on visitation to the islands, and everyone acknowledges it’s in the economic interest of the island to get control of the problem and deliver better outcomes for animals.

Indeed, the seeds of the program were sown when HSUS hired its first-ever Puerto Rico director, Yolanda Alvarez, after a generous HSUS member visited Puerto Rico and was deeply troubled by what he saw. He donated tens of thousands of dollars to allow us to hire Yolanda. Yolanda then partnered with Tara Loller, our puppy mill policy implementation director, and they worked with Attorney General Miranda to build the elements of the program.

In my many years of humane work, I’ve never seen so many strands pulled together at one time, with every agency and private player contributing to a comprehensive plan to turn around the problems that have plagued the animals and the people of a state or a community. The HSUS will be in Puerto Rico for the long haul, and if this week’s launch was an indicator of the quality of the program, change is coming in a dramatic way.

Animal Rescue and Care, Humane Society International

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  1. Ana Simard says:

    Finally, help for those poor animals! For so many years thousands of defenseless dogs have suffered. Thank you!!

  2. BarbG says:

    Even with Puerto Rico being a Commonwealth it still treats its dogs and cats like Mexico or most of the Islands. They don’t bother to spay/ neuter either because most of the population is to poor or they simply don’t care one way or the other. Hawaii is the only group of islands that I know of, I may be wrong, that will not allow any dog or cat to live there without being spayed or neutered.

    • Vanessa says:

      thats not entirely true. I live in Puerto Rico and I can guarantee you that we have plenty of organizations and groups you care and help these poor babies in the streets. Yes we have ppl you don’t care and mistreat them and abandoned them!!!!! But that occurres all over the world.

  3. Linnette Pineiro says:

    As a long time rescuer, I am very glad of the implementation of this plan here in the Island. There are so, so many stray dogs and cats suffering in the streets that it is very heartbreaking. I have my own shelter and wish I could do more, but there’s no help from the government unfortunately. Wish you the best in this endeavor in the Island, thank you very much for taking care of our strays.

  4. Janis Palma says:

    Thank you! We needed this. You have brought us hope for real change and renewed our energy so we all can keep saving lives!

  5. Judy Haller says:

    i fine this hard to believe, every city, every town, have stray dogs, cats, kittens dumped, know one cares! Is the 600 thousand just for San Juan? Cause that’s where most of the tourist are? I have seen animals abused, people throwing rocks anything they can find at the animals, baseball game where a 6 yr old was kicking a small dog, law inforcement standing watching! No one saying a word to that child. My son stepped in to stop it!
    Horses all over on sides of roads without water!
    Just wonder how the money is going to be dispensed to truly help animals!

  6. Willie Roldan says:

    My Goodness…… this all sounds pretty promising, I pray things start to unfold for the better of these poor helpless dogs & cats in Puerto Rico…. It’s about time. I myself have a rescue dog from Aguadilla Puerto Rico I rescued 2 years ago…. my sister who lives in South Carolina has 3 …. Please make this all HAPPEN ! Thank you ! Willie Roldan

  7. Ruth Padilla says:

    As a native Puertorrican who lived in the mainland for 20 years, returning home is a mixed blessing. Witnessing acts of animal neglect and apathy have ruined the 3 years that I’ve been back. As a culture puertorricans do not care to follow laws, any laws. Just drive around the island to see more traffic violations than you can imagine while most are either speaking or texting on their precious celphones. Regard for the law is non existent.
    So how can we advocate for the animal welfare law 154 to be enforced, who knows?
    Just three weeks ago I tried to file an animal cruelty complaint. It took me 4 hours of cops giving me the runaround, went to the bayamon Norte police station and the sargeant refused to file the complaint because the law did not include goats and if the animal was on the way to the slaughterhouse it did not apply. Showed him the law on my cell, it has no exclusions. He said, well if we take this to court the judge will reprehend us for wasting the courts time. Basically, they don’t care.
    Trust me, I’ve been here long enough to know, very few realy care and use their hard earn money to pay vets that are raking in big money helping with rescues.
    We drafted to projects to be presented to the House of Representatives and after giving face during a three day rally at the capitol, now ignore my emails.
    We desperately need a free clinic. This clinic can house the rescued while recieving treatments and provide free esterilizations.
    Our biggest problem is the backyard breeders. Culturally, we breed and breed and breed, with no regards to the animals welfare. These puppies are then thrown away or used as bait dogs. Our other big problem, dog fights.
    We also desperately need a law banning petstores from selling companion animals. Also, on line adds selling, trading or mating pets are illegal, but check the local on line classifieds to see hundreds of these adds.
    We need a ban on all sales, on stores, on line, including both local and out of state purchases. People buy puppies on line from the mainland to illegally breed.
    As you can see it is an uphill battle. Culturally most puertorricans see animals as a an inferior being not an inteligent, feeling loyal companion. Most see them as money,
    Our group needs help making the free clinic and sale ban projects go through!
    Please help us now. There are 300,00 strays tonight that need food and shelter, How can we help them before they end up dead or raided in by an unscrupulous mayor that raids the streets at night and sends those dogs the animal control shelter where they are immediately killed because they have a contract with their town and are payed about $15.00 for rach dog killed. Under the table deals to kill for profit. Please investigate this issue.
    Rescuers have feeding routes, they have fed, vaccinated and fixed their homeless babies for years.Over a week or so, they see them all disappear and a pound truck seen roaming the areas.
    Is corruption at it’s best!
    So please help us.
    I am at you disposal to answer any of your questions and to help you navigate the way to reach our common goal, no homeless or abused animals.

    • Liz Rodriguez says:

      I am very glad to see that somehting is being done to address the matter of abandoned and mistreated animals on the Island’s streets. As master animal behavorists say:” they train PEOPLE and rehabilitate animals.” We must educate people and, for those that think the education a joke, there must be severe penalties and consequences for their actions against animals. I agree with the comments about the need for LOW cost spay/neuter clinics and add that there must be coordinated efforts among animal rescue groups, vets and government to address this issue. Finally, we must not forget the areas of the Island away from the tourists view. Animals living in small municipalities in the south and mid Island, Patillas, Maunabo, Guayama, Orocovis etc need ATTENTION, too.

  8. Jackie Phillips says:

    Great job, HSUS! Everyone works together to help the animals!

  9. Barb Scoby says:

    This is wonderful!!! I was in Puerto Rico just last month and I saw many of the stray cats and dogs. I also saw many skinny horses that were tied up to poles in grassy lots and were left there to graze for the day. Hopefully someone can do something for the horses as well!

  10. jeri swan says:

    When I was in Puerto rico I saw first hand how horrible the dogs were treated. Hopefully now you can alleviate this horrible problem. Onward to success.

  11. Maritza Rodriguez says:

    I am glad for the help that finally arrived to Puerto Rico. We believe it is great to have support for hundreds of local rescuers, private and municipal shelters that have being doing the best they can with scarce resources and training. Providing low cost and free of charge spay and neuter surgeries we have being able to fix over 54,000 animals in the last 6 years; more than 30,000 of them were done by The Humane Society of Puerto Rico. In 2005 euthanasia rate was near 98% and the last statistics showed it has dropped to 90%. That means even with difficulties found in our path working together has shown some improvement. With the help of HSUS we can keep moving forward, stronger and steady to promote consistency, high quality training and standards in a way all of us can share information to create and/or improve the programs – we already have through different local non-profit organizations – for the benefit of our society and their animals.

  12. Tiena DuBois says:

    Please stop this endless suffering and torture of innocent animals unable to find water -food-or care on their own.

    If you fined these people enough money and with prison-they would stop the abuse. Any abuse teaches people to accept it and practice it.

  13. Yolanda says:

    This is wonderful news. As a rescuer for 20 yrs I have seen it all. Yet I am skeptical with these great plans and ideas. I don’t trust the PR agencies or vets. A low cost spay and neuter program is a must. You need to involve the churches. People will do whatever the pastor/priest says . Christians are extremely cruel in the treatment of animals. People here do not adopt, they buy its a social status……I am willing to do what it takes to help in these projects. Maybe some of the current fosters will find homes
    Good luck.

    • Amarilis says:

      I am christian, and I do not mistreat my dogs and cats. And all my christian friends treat their pets as family. If you saw some people that call themselves christian and are cruel to animals, they are posers and an insult to other caring christians.

  14. Awilda Jimenez says:

    It is heartbreaking to see so many, neglected & abandoned dogs and cats roaming the streets for food. The mind set of abandoning these animals once they are no longer cute, puppies has to be taught from an early age. And of course closing down puppy mills and enforcing stiff jail sentences and/or fines need to be instituted; in order to make a dent in the massive problem here on the island.
    Also there has to be a strict accountability for the funding and hands on management of these programs, to ensure that the programs are explicitly moving forward, to make positive changes for these defenseless animals.

  15. Nora Quinones says:

    Much needed intervention, people abandoning dogs outnumber folks trying to help.
    People have 20 to 25 dogs and struggle to feed them while their heart breaks as they cannot take in others.
    Terrible how people’s indifference and lack of compassion has become the standard. No one thinks about what that dog is going through
    I certainly hope that changes are coming for the sake of these poor dogs, that the resources go to the heart of saving those on the steets.
    I think the problem is much bigger if you got the rescues and Fosters and who are housing 50 to 60 dogs.
    They are the ones HSUS should reach out to for first hand info on the struggles.
    Politicians and law enforcement have done little, progress has been slow and dogs are dying everyday,
    i cry to think what these poor souls endure , they are invisible, with no voice, except for the few whose hearts are broken because of limited funds, space, resources
    Please reach out to the rescatistas, they have been at the forefront of this battle with little help from law, government, lawyers, etc….
    Please make there struggles to the forefront, they have been caring for these animals, not the government.
    It has been there sweat that has saved so many, so to do this right, you need to bring them all together for a round table discussion, politicians and lawyers , doubt they have gotten their hands dirty to try to bring change,
    Please honor and acknowledge those who have been saving lives by inviting only them for a round table discussion, they have been saving lives when most just looked away.
    Without the threat of serious punishment you will not get the culture to change, and with lack of responsibility by the majority to contain their pets in their home and not let them roam unneutered, abandonment and overpopulation will continue.
    with limited resources the shelter cannot house the amount of dogs abandoned everyday, I mean everyday.
    It is a Hugh problem that needs to be addressed at different levels, but I think most importantly is too reach out to those who are already saving lives, have sacrafice their lives to save street dogs, they need a voice and a hand, and to be acknowledge for all the lives they have saved, to know that know they will get help

  16. Kathy Virag says:

    IT’S ABOUT TIME THE WORLD LOOKS at Puerto Rico’s inhumane treatment of animals, the animal abandonment crisis, abuse, overpopulation and apathy of many island residents. Thousands of animals are trashed everyday when they get pregnant (due to non spaying or non neutering) and/or do something the owners do not like who don’t know how to train/treat them with kindness. There are also cruel dog fighting rings there as there are in the states.

    I think this is finally a big step for PR. I hope that the financial input is handled and managed by the HSUS or the money may get mishandled and spent by the PR government for other purposes. Most important this program needs to be ISLAND WIDE and not just the San Juan area, as street animals- especially the satos- and cat colonies are seen in every community, on the main highways, tourist beaches, shopping center parking lots and in the countryside. I hope that this will be a successful program and that residents as well as tourists will participate in turning this situation around so that it can truly live up to it’s (unwarranted now) reputation as an island of tropical beauty.

  17. Lynette Feliciano says:

    Its been 2yrs since Ive lived here in PR, I have my 2 dogs and a cat. Born and raised in NY, I have never seen so many homeless animals as Ive seen here in the island. I feed as many as I possibly can but Ive cried many times from feeling overwhelmed and not being able to help more. God bless you guys for trying to fix PR our animals need you!!!

  18. Carolyn Pigford says:

    it is about time.

  19. Analee Moreno says:

    This news makes me very happy. A lot of ppl wish to help out but sadly there are so many animals that makes it hard. Its a never ending story. They manage to save 4 and the next day there are 7 puppies in a box in a remote area or near an avenue. You will find a lot of volunteers here helping this cause. We don’t want any more animals suffering .
    Thank you

  20. Yazmine Esparza says:

    This is amazing and what so many doglovers have been waiting for in Puerto Rico. I am hopeful that it will help create awareness and generate action against animal cruelty. Education should definitely be a component, not just to law enforcement personnel but to communities as well. As a public relations professional and Puerto Rican who has been involved in the dog cause for years, I’d like to suggest that you work with the already well- known and active groups like Rabito Kontento, SASFAPR, The Sato Project, among many others, who dedicate their time to rescuing dogs and also to educating people so attitudes and behaviors in PR can be fixed. Rabito Kontento specifically has an educational initiative in which they take local rescued dogs that have become therapy dogs to schools and talk to kids about animals and teach them to be compassionate and aware. They have impacted thousands of children this way. They also make and donate doggy wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs, changing the lives not only of the dog but of those who learn from them.

    Congrats to HSUS for this first step and hopefully they’ll be able to integrate existing groups that also have made a difference ans could use the pat on the back from this type of partnership.

    And, most importantly, thank you for caring about our Puerto Rican dogs!!!

  21. Iris Torres says:

    Thank’s a lot for your support in this cause. But, please, please, monitoring the proper use of funds, resources of all types, etc. in a monthly basis, if possible. We (people who loves and cares animals and the animals too) don’t take the chance to lost them (improper use).

  22. Lynda Carlson says:

    I am very glad you are stepping in to help these Sato dogs. I wish the same could be said for the POTCAKE island dogs. They are now lumped into the category that makes it nearly impossible to rescue them to the U.S. I am an US citizen and have been finding homes and transporting POTCAKE dogs for 10 years. Why don’t you support the Bahamas as well and their struggle. They have no support from their government. We have found some wonderful rescues in other parts of the country who would love to take POTCAKES but now with the new regulations it is next to impossible. Why don’t you care?

  23. carenly rivera mercado says:

    Necesitamos una unidad especializada en casos de maltrato para parar los abandonos y la crueldad. Penas mas severas y educación a la comunidad.

  24. Mayra says:

    As Puertorrican and an animal lover I feel encouraged and filled with hope that finally something will be done for our poor little angels on the Island. I feel ashamed that the initiative had to come from out of the Island when it should have been promoted and funded by the PR government and us. I praise what you are doing and may God bless you all.

  25. Iris V Lopez Mendez says:

    Thank God that our voice was heard!! I thank Yolanda and the Governor for opening everyone’s eyes! This has been going on too long no animal should have to suffer as these did! Euthenation is no longer an option! Spay and nueter programs educating the people will help extremely! I visted many times and instead of enjoying my trip, I came back depressed after seeing so many strays on the streets. As dog owner who care for her dog like family I could’nt even think of going back until something was done!! I along with some friends wrote to the Governor he answered with there is a plan in the future thank God the future is now!!! !!!!

  26. Anaeli Rubio says:

    Please follow up with the PR Government an their agencies involved, so in 2-3 years the won’t forget. The Municipalities are the ones that promote euthasia, before trying TNR and adoption. It’s automatic; pick up the animal, without any humane care and take to shelter to euthnise. There are a lot of good citizens, rescuers but even in schools, the administration is the first to mistreat the animal or won’t do anything about it. They just don’t care, just their paycheck and done.

  27. Ivonne Acevedo says:

    I am only going to say one thing….THANK YOU! We need the help.

  28. Viviana M. Pagan-Muniz says:

    So happy to learn of this initiative. My family and I have saved several dogs and found them home because everytime we go to the beach there are literally packs of loving loving dogs just hanging out there because people drop them off. It breaks our hearts. The problem is, its not only about catching the bad guys, it is about making it MANDATORY to spay/neuter. This program has to reach all socioeconomic levels to be successful. I’m sure there are programs of young vets who could benefit from the practice, and im sure these programs exist. Please — make clinics to go around spay/neuter and giving vaccines to the poor street dogs. If not, it’ll be an endless cycle as it has been until today. When the dogs are running wild, they don’t have anyone to pick them up and take them to the vet to get spayed/neutered…i’ve done it for about three or four on my dime… but you know, can’t do it all the time…

  29. Irene S. Bruce-Ragowsky says:

    This brought tears to my eyes… having been in the past very involved in the rescue of dogs in Rincon, my Husband was, president of “ARF of Rinco” to know finally the government will get involved to stop the reproduction, save the animal’s from cruelty and maintain more credibility for our tourism.

  30. Dr. Linda A. Cintrón-Núñez, DVM says:

    I’m very concerned and actually afraid that the first action that will be taken is mass collection and “euthanasia” by untrained and insensitive government employees. With very few exceptions, historically the municipal government jobs in their animal shelters have been regarded as the least important and have even been used for disciplinary reassignments. The government just wants this black eye of a problem gone, and like with all others situations they will initially throw great amounts of money at publicity; and although publicity is an important factor, the true efforts needed in the streets and countryside will take second place or worse in locations outside of the San Juan Metro Area. They’ll take care of it near touristic areas because their primary concern is the image of Puerto Rico not necessarily the well-being of animals. Regarding puppy mills, this is not as serious of a problem as in the States. However, the myths and misconceptions regarding spay and neutering that contributes so greatly to the abandonment, suffering, and death of dogs and cats, must be directly and effectively addressed. I do wish this most welcomed effort great success as it is literally the answer to the prayers of so many of us who dearly love the animals on our beloved island and work so hard on their behalf. Thank you so very, very much. Sincerely and respectfully, Dr. Linda A. Cintrón-Núñez, DVM

  31. Anel Cruz says:

    All I want to say is THANK you!
    With our troubled economy is so minimum that we can give. But it breaks my heart with every injured, abandoned and neglected angel I see on our streets. I have food and fresh water on my vehicle to at least give them food, but is not enough.
    This appeared to be the never ending story, but you give hope that this can work, and they will someday be safe.

  32. Dora Carbonell Arroyo says:

    We think that what you and your org. is doing this is a wonderful and very necessary in Puerto Rico. We have a veterinary clinic located in Guanica, southwest of the island and we have two half price vaccination clinics a year in order to encourage people to care for the health of their animals. We have also joined the Island Dog Inc. to also encourage pet owners to neuter their dogs and cats. We have a half price vaccination and family day sponsored by our clinic, the mayor of our town and Island Dog Inc. Sunday April 26th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. we will also give out vouchers to sterilize and castrate their animals at half the cost again in order to encourage pet owners to bring in their animals and any strays in their neighborhood. We hand out information concerning the care of their animals to all our clients and encourage them to annually vaccinate their animals.
    Please do count on us to assist in any way. We invite your
    org. to share an information booth on April 26th. The activity is being held at the town square in Guanica from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
    Thank you again for caring!
    Clinica Veterinaria La Suiza
    Carretera 11, Km. 24.7
    Guanica, P.R. 00653

  33. Charlotte Merriam says:

    i would be very interested in the progress reports of this week needful and wonderful program. Please be sure to post reports on Facebook and if possible add me to your email list.

  34. MMontalvo says:

    My concern is that in order to improve the situation for the street dogs we have to do like San Francisco did in the 1980’s, euthanize thousands. People do not like that idea so the money gets wasted in saving a few dogs at a great expense with no real plan to decrease the birth rate of dogs. Only by the unpopular massive euthanasia of all street dogs can the shelter dogs have a real chance for adoption. The people surrender more animals to the shelter than others can adopt and to that large number, an even larger number of street animals are added. Any initiative that involves massive euthanasia is vetoed by donors and any initiative that does not involve massive euthanasia is ineffective.

  35. Nora Quinones says:

    Thank God, I hope the people cooperate, problem is the mentality , that it is ok not to neuter and spay, and to abandon them on the streets.
    Not sure how you get people to turn around in a big way.
    These poor animals have been paying the price for a long time.
    The Government had done next to nothing, the few that enforce the new 154 law, look away as millions of dogs die on the streets from starvation and disease. Sending a horrible message to the public as well as all the kill shelters. They are the ones to pay the price, a truly heartbreaking realty.
    hSUs, has the expierence and network to get it done and will need to sidestep the bureaucracy and talk is cheap culture of Puerto Rican government. Junk bonds, high unemployment…, please do not think they are going to be a strong partner, HSUS has a tough road ahead, but for all the animals, dogs, cats, horses…, I hope HSUS suceeds, you are their only hope. I rescued 80 dogs from there, and my heart breaks to pieces knowing there are so many left on the streets to die.
    Kudos to HSUS, you did not sign up for easy, but it is the most hopeful news for these animals.

  36. Nylsa Padilla says:

    I’ve fixed 2 stray cats and 3 kittens while here but cant afford to keep doing. It cost $50 to $70 dollars to get ananimal neutered and another $60-$65 for shots. Thats a lot of money to pay on a fixed income. I had to call around until I found the Humacao Animal Hospital (hour and a half round trip) which offered me the best price. But it breaks my heart to see them wandering around. More low cost neutering clinics and a hell of a lot more volunteering from current vets would certainly help…

  37. DENISSE says:


  38. Lynn Descoteau says:

    I have lived on the island for more than seven years and have never witnessed such cruelty and indifference to life as I have here. My husband and I rescued (S/N/V and released) many cats and dogs prior to my becoming part of a non profit rescue group, The Hachiko Animal Federation located in Guanica on the south west corner of the island. We are 100% volunteer and donor operated. ALL of our money goes to vet care for our rescues.

    What has horrified me is the lack of interest and concern for this problem which is created by the people here of the island. Dogs, cats and horses are thought of as nothing more then objects. Many times they are used for target practice and aimed at by cars, thrown out of moving vehicles and out of boats to drown. It is staggering and nightmare inducing. I have rescued many from the sea right in front of my house.

    I applaud the involvement of the HSUS and hope they control the money and move it ISLAND WIDE and not just in the San Juan metro areas. This is an ISLAND WIDE PROBLEM. If this isn’t the case, the money will just evaporate into thin air via corruption. This whole island is surrounded by beaches where dogs and cats get dumped everyday.
    Owners sentence their pets to slow and agonizing deaths by abandonment and rescuers have the task of bearing this burden financially and emotionally. How inhumane!

    I feel that the animal issue can be linked to the root of many problems on this island. Homeless and abused animals impact tourism, business, domestic violence, bullying, health, the drug trade, and that is just a start.

    If I hear one more person mention Puerto Rican pride I’ll scream. There is nothing to be proud of if you can’t treat animals humanely.

    Yes, many of these animals need to be put down now, but some can be saved and healed. They can be trained for many positive functions that give the animal a quality of life, a job and a home. People can be trained to train the animals and that gives them a job.

    My husband and I own a tourism related business so we are stakeholders in this problem and the first question we’re asked by tourists is “why do the people treat the animals like this?” It is a reflection on the people, not the animals.

    There are so many things that can be done and ideas to share. I hope the HSUS and those on the island listen to the rescue groups. We’re the boots on the ground.

    I’m happy to regain my steam and still have the desire to help the south west side of the island. I know I can’t rescue every cat, dog or horse, but I’m willing to once again pitch in if we know we get resources for our area.

    Lynn Descoteau
    Community Outreach Director
    The Hachiko Animal Federation
    Tele: 787-233-4114

  39. A Cruz says:

    For three years our 501c3 nonprofit has rescued, vetted and found homes for dozens of animals that are rescued on the south side of the island, the Guanica area. Our ground rescuer in Guanica encounters maimed dogs, starving dogs, sick and suffering dogs each and every day. For tourists visiting the island it is indeed a vacation of night of the living dead with skeletal, sick and lonely dogs roaming Puerto Rico everywhere you look. If you love animals and especially if man’s best friend is an important part of your life, you will NEVER NEVER want to return to Puerto Rico. The over 200,000 dogs wandering the island will find you and break your heart because as animal lovers you will wonder how can this happen in Puerto Rico when it is not third world. There is one very important fact that needs to be addressed to make the Humane Hurricane successful i Puerto Rico. That fact is that the Colegio Veterinario of Puerto Rico has not allowed foreign veterinarian volunteer groups to come to Puerto Rico and train PR vets in mass spay and neuter techniques, nor has it allowed off island groups to conduct mass spay and neuter. While efforts to spay and neuter by the few Puerto Rican vets is laudable, this animal crisis needs all the help from abroad that is offered.

  40. Amarilis says:

    “In traveling to Puerto Rico this week, I was struck by the incredible enthusiasm for this program. The people of Puerto Rico want to do better when it comes to animals, and there are so many caring people there.” Thank you for these kind words. I am one of these enthusiasts. I have 5 cats and 4 dogs, all adopted. Three of them I rescued directly from the street. I sincerely hope all this effort in not in vain.

  41. Alison Trazzera says:

    Wayne – this sounds fantastic for sure. You mentioned a focus on PR at the HSUS conference last year and it looks like you are keeping your word. THANK YOU. I am a volunteer for Island Dog Inc ( based in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, and we’ve bagged 3 dead dogs and a cat found on Los Machos (same beach your picture featured here was taken) in the last two days. I am from NJ and we are shipping 11 dogs out to Chicago and NJ on Mon/Tue this week to be re-homed by our shelter partners there. Again – thank you for this focus.

    • Zach says:

      What organization is sending dogs to Chicago? I’m traveling to PR in May, flying out of Chicago, and am very interested in escorting dogs to Chicago. The organizations I’ve reached out to in PR don’t have any partners in the Chicago area.

  42. Lara says:

    Everything Ms. Ruth Padilla wrote is the perfect truth about the overpopulation of dogs & cats in PR!!
    I live here as well. The main core of this alarming situation is not enough education. WE NEED:
    1. Education in our schools on behalf of animals and the importance of neuter and spay
    2. Puertorricans watch and hear a lot of radio and TV. Therefore, creating a massive campaign of Cero Tolerance to Animal Abuse / Neuter and Spay campaign in different channels and radio stations would help a lot!
    3. Inform more about the 154 Law and REINFORCE IT.
    4. Educate the police by creating special trainnings in Police Academies about the importance of the 154 Law.


  43. Nadja Miranda says:

    I have been living on the island since more than 3 years and it always bothered me to see dogs and cats on the streets and nobody caring. I have always dog food in my car and fed the satos. Sometimes its not food but love what they crave. Many people need help with spaying/neutering their dogs. It is so expensive that many people dont do it. A mobile vet center would be awesome that reaches even the most rural parts of the island.

  44. Animal Lighthouse Rescue says:

    Animal Lighthouse Rescue has been working with the non kill shelter El Faro de los Animales in Humacao, Puerto Rico for years – it will be so nice to have an organization like HSUS, with their resources and personnel, on our side helping us combat the issues on the island. If you’re interested in donating to El Faro, volunteering to foster or adopting one of these beautiful and amazing Satos, you can find us here:

  45. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Bravissimo, HSUS! An encouraging, heart-expanding initiative.

  46. Eida Margarita Don says:

    There are many people & organizations in Puerto Rico that are trying very hard to help solve this terrible problem of over population of dogs, cats & other animals. Many are deeply in debt because we have no government funding or help in any way, just posting the bills on FB and asking for donations donations donations….. I feel it is very important that HSUS has an open house or reunion with all of these organizations, so we take part of actively helping those who help us and at the same time hear directly from the people that are in the streets rescuing… Thanks for helping us help the voiceless……

  47. Zulma Vazquez says:

    Excellent initiative, I became aware of this new in the compassive fatigue seminar sponsored by your organization on April 12 @ the Embassy.

    This is an extraordinary news for our animals in the street, specially dogs, cats and horses. Unfortunately, there is too much cruelty with animals and a lot of frustration for those who loves and respect them. Thanks for giving this opportunity to our abandoned and abused animals.

  48. Lo says:

    We need this in PR. “So if we want a better society tomorrow, we need to build it today.”

  49. Lo says:

    Our children see how we treat these beings. They can learn to love and care for them. or to mistreat them
    thank you for this focus. It is so needed for these loving and defenseless beings

  50. Melissa says:

    This is absolutely wonderful news. There are thousands of people who try rescuing these poor souls, or at the very least feed the strays so they don’t starve to death. I believe the solution in the long run lies in education. Teaching the community, especially children, the meaning of compassion and respect for ALL living beings, in particular those who need us most. There is animal cruelty across the globe, but there are also many good people on my island who want to help. With guidance and a strong team effort, I have hope that we might FINALLY have a long-term solution. Thank you HSUS!!

  51. Jose Serrano says:

    This is truly an amazing step for a much needed cause and giant problem in Puerto Rico. I grew up in PR and was an animal lover as far back as I can remember.

    Thankfully my parents never stop me for always bringing dogs that lived in the streets to my front yard, and feeding them. Some of them would stay in the area, and others would eventually move on. Aside from the support of my family, I always felt alone in the need to help homeless animals.

    It’s true there are a lot of homeless animals, and animal welfare is something that is on everyones mind in PR, there are still a lot of people that care for animals, and a lot of people that love their pets just as we do here in the states. So I am very hopeful that attitudes can change, and help and show those little kids that care for animals a way to help and how to get involved. I hope this includes education on animal welfare in the schools as well.

    Thank you HSUS!

  52. betty says:

    Me alegro que hayan venido a p.r . Para que se den cuenta que aqui el gobierno no esta haciendo nada al respecto. Se lo están dejando todo a las organizaciones sin fines de lucro. ..

  53. Marina says:

    Super DUPER excited with the news but would like to extend the concern to not only cats and dogs but also to BIRDS.
    I moved here with my two parrots and soon enough discovered that people have no information about how to keep and/or maintain birds/parrots as pets. More often than not after the initial excitement of having the pet bird at home, most are kept in very bad conditions or released into the wild. Neither a good option.
    I beg to please AT LEAST implement some kind of educational program of some sort. Maybe get together with Para La Naturaleza and get something going.
    Its alarming and a problem that could be avoided with education.
    Thanks a bunch.

  54. YNP says:

    Then you can start helping those who have lots of Sanctuaries here and they are not receiving help from the government. This is one of them. Please help him.

  55. Abby DeMillo says:

    You can start with Dead Dog Beach. For years, US volunteers have been coming to this beach to save these beautiful animals that are so carelessly discarded. Kudos to groups like The Sato Project – – now hopefully the government of P.R. can help change this for the better.

  56. Elif Gökteke says:

    Do you really believe all that money will be really spent for street animals? “Animal control” and “animal welfare” are oxymorons. The street animals will be culled and imprisoned in shelters and killed. What is the American way of finding the solution?: No animal in the streets. Dogs and cats are waiting on the deathrow in shelters, waiting to be murdered (euthanasia is an ugly word). And “humane” animal societies are always hungry for donations. Now this “humane” solution will be put in use in Puerto Rico. It’s really a “hurricane” which will cause huge loss and damage to street animals. Beware of what’s called “humane”!

    • nameless says:

      This is not the American way , don’t criticize my country. We have many no-kill shelters. However yes some will be put to sleep and go to a better place, only because not everyone can afford 2-3 dogs but I promise many will have a loving home

  57. Liz Rivera says:

    It’s 2017…What happened with this initiative?!

  58. Gina Bloom says:

    We adopted two beautiful, sweet, playful one-year old sister kitties who were born from a pregnant mother cat from Puerto Rico. They were rescued by a wonderful rescue shelter in northern Virginia whose mission is to save animals, take care of them, make sure they have all their vaccinations, are fed nutritious food and are loved.

    Their dogs and cats are fostered until they’re adopted under a very strict process that also requires a payment so they can continue their work. We’re very thankful for our sweet girls who are happy, playful, energetic and loving, although still a bit skittish at times, but getting more comfortable by the day.

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