Stateside shelters help attack mass euthanasia, other animal problems in Puerto Rico

By on February 21, 2017 with 4 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

We launched our Humane Puerto Rico program two years ago because animals are in crisis in this long-neglected, populous part of the United States. One fact, among all others, stared us in the face: some shelters in the Commonwealth had a euthanasia rate of 95 percent. There was a broad recognition that if an animal found its way into one of these facilities, it probably wasn’t coming out alive.

There are caring people at the shelters – underpaid, overworked people with heart and a commitment to helping animals. But they do not have sufficient financial, human capital, or community support, and often don’t have the equipment, training, and other essentials to care for homeless animals and connect them with people who can provide a loving home. What’s more, they’re placed within a setting that is rife with challenges, with 300,000 street dogs and more than a million cats roaming in the Commonwealth. Many shelter workers suffer from compassion fatigue, and when we conducted workshops to help them cope with their work struggles, they told us that our workshops amounted to a life-saving intervention. Rather than continue to confront misery and tragedy all around them, they felt like they couldn’t continue and wanted to escape a world filled with so much pain.

As we work to unwind the set of animal problems in Puerto Rico, we are receiving remarkable support from the people of Puerto Rico and the political and corporate leaders on the island – from politicians helping rewrite animal welfare laws, to school administrators allowing us to conduct humane education programs in all public schools, to law enforcement leadership who support our training programs for every cop in the Commonwealth, to veterinarians who are helping us conduct spay-and-neuter programs in 61 of 78 municipalities. The people want us there, they are desperate for this help, and welcoming in every way.

Several weeks ago, I announced our horse contraception program, to deal with 2,000 free-roaming horses, on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. This week, we launch another facet of our larger Humane Puerto program – principally to help municipal shelters by allowing them to be adopted by top shelters across the United States’ mainland. With an incredible assist from Maddie’s Fund – which does life-saving work to advance the goal of a “No Kill Nation” — leaders from 11 shelters are traveling to Puerto Rico this week to launch our Sister Shelter Project. These shelters include Bakersfield SPCA in California, Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado, Larimer Humane Society in Fort Collins, Colorado, Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C., Humane Society of Central Oregon, Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands, New York, Monmouth County SPCA in New Jersey, Operation Kindness in Carrollton, Texas, Second Chance Animal Shelter in Massachusetts, and Norfolk SPCA and Virginia Beach SPCA in Virginia.

These shelter leaders will visit shelters in Puerto Rico to lift them up and professionalize their operations in the months and years ahead. All of us imagine a complete makeover of animal sheltering in Puerto Rico. These are A-list shelters, allied with us as Emergency Placement Partners, and known entities to all of us at The HSUS, and we have supreme confidence that they can help us achieve our goal.

The stateside partners in the Sister Shelter Project have experts in disease management, volunteer programs, community outreach, customer service, and lifesaving adoption programs, all items desperately needed in Puerto Rico. Tackling euthanasia and promoting adopting and sterilization and animal health takes an extraordinary set of approaches to be successful, but these shelters know the formula for success. What a wonderful, giving instinct they have to stretch beyond their communities and to help animals in such desperate need.

It is profoundly sad to see dogs with mange and other maladies roaming the streets of Puerto Rico. To know that animals in shelters are likely to be euthanized. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to stand aside and let that persist. Or we can put our shoulder to this situation and solve the problems to the greatest extent possible. That’s what we’re doing. But it will take an extraordinary cast of players to be successful. Today, we add to the ranks our team of Sister Shelters. Hope swells.

Save animals in Puerto Rico »

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals

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  1. Sheila says:

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I see the struggle these organizations go through every day, many good hearted people with little or no resources. Thank you.

  2. Lorna Lightle says:

    The people..the PR rescuers and fosters ..Humane PR..HSUS…Magnificent Mutts & Meows Rescue in Hillside IL…
    Without the part you took to help…I
    I wouldnt have my rescue Dori…

    Thank you all for ALL that you do. <3

  3. Wendy Price says:

    Vieques Island Animal Sanctuary is the only no kill shelter in Vieques and one of the few in PR. It is a 501c3 all volunteer nonprofit. Volunteers work to support it as VIAS receives few donations. Thank you so much for bringing help and attention to the euthanasia problem here. We hope one day there will be more support for no kill.

  4. Anonymous for a good reason says:

    Your statistics are off, we have a 98% kill rate in PR and only 4 municipal shelters.

    Furthermore, the shelters are NOT completely supportive of our rescue efforts and programs. I can attest to this as we are due in court shortly today as we are being harassed by the municipal shelter of San Juan who wants to seize cats we are waiting to send for adoption in Boston once the airlines again allow their transport because they restrict transport of animals in cargo when temperatures are too high or in this case too low. This as a result of of neighbor who dislikes animals filing a civil complaint, which they opted to drop. The shelter has already seized and euthanized a litter of kittens we had found homes for when that animal hating neighbor called them to pick up the babies she taken when the mother was elsewhere and put in a box. One of us even followed the truck to the shelter yet they refused to return them and euthanized them instead.
    That is how much they seem to care

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