In 2015, The HSUS, Humane Society International, and the Government of Puerto Rico announced a comprehensive partnership involving governmental agencies, all 78 provincial mayors, and other stakeholders, to transform animal welfare on the island. The partnership covers specialized training for law enforcement officials, animal control agents, social workers, and teachers as a way of dealing with chronic problems for animals and reimaging our relationship with them. The program is called Humane Puerto Rico, and half a dozen HSUS and HSI departments are involved in this large-scale initiative designed to help Puerto Rico’s street dog population and working equines, among other animals in need. It’s provided the template for similar ‘humane state” programs, with our launch of Humane Oklahoma last year, and we hope others will soon follow.
Recently, our Humane Society Academy educators have been in Puerto Rico to extend their training of administrators, social workers, and teachers under the authority of the Department of Education. They’ve seen tremendous enthusiasm on the part of participants, who have expressed interest in cultivating a greater appreciation for animals on the part of Puerto Rico’s schoolchildren. In less than two years, HSA staff members have trained 2,000 professionals, supported curriculum initiatives in every public school across the island, reaching 400,000 students, and provided the HSUS magazine Kind News to every public elementary school, reaching 238,000 students.
We recently received a generous donation from HSUS board member Spencer Haber to advance this important element of our work on the island, which supports teachers seeking to implement educational programs that help students develop their sense of ethics and empathy, think critically about moral duties toward animals and people, and grow up to be a part of the solution to animal-related challenges in their communities. The first-phase goal of our collaboration with the Department of Education was to introduce teachers across Puerto Rico to the foundations of humane pedagogy. Now, we’re working with teachers to help them blend and incorporate humane education practices into their current curriculum.
On top of that, The HSUS has trained approximately 3,000 law enforcement officers in animal cruelty investigations, provided evidence kits for attendees, offered compassion fatigue training, volunteer engagement training, and social media training to shelter/rescue workers, provided computers/printers/software to shelters, and trained shelter staff in new software to standardize reporting methods and better track euthanasia rates.
Our direct service to animals in Puerto Rico is also expanding. On the basis of a street dog density survey conducted in 2014, HSI has staged 16 vaccination and spay/neuter clinics across the island, focusing on areas that lack veterinary services. So far, HSI’s campaign has resulted in the spaying and neutering of 6,000 dogs, and has touched 60 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities.
We are also uniting stateside shelters with Puerto Rico’s eight shelters and three sanctuaries to provide mentorship and support for developing greater awareness of the plight of animals and of the opportunities to help them. This ‘Sister Shelter Program,’ we hope, will ignite lasting change and adoption of best practices at Puerto Rican shelters.
As part of our deployment, a Humane State team recently set up shop on Vieques, an island municipality eight miles east of the main island of Puerto Rico, to train law enforcement officers over a two-day period. The training covered the connection between animal crimes and familial and societal violence, identifying and investigating animal neglect and cruelty, dog fighting investigations, and equine cruelty investigations, as well as proper equine care. And in October, we’re sending our Faith Outreach Team to Puerto Rico to initiate a street dog blessing and church-based campaign to promote spay/neuter.
Puerto Rico has nearly four million people, and millions of animals. The people of the Commonwealth have welcomed us, and we’re glad to play a part in an incredible island makeover to help people and animals.