In 2015, The HSUS planted a stake in the ground in Puerto Rico.
No longer would animal protection groups avert their gaze from the Commonwealth, with its nearly four million U.S. citizens.
Thanks to one of our leading supporters in New Jersey, The HSUS hired a Commonwealth director. And in short order thereafter, we developed a much bigger game plan: Humane Puerto Rico, an island-wide effort to transform conditions for animals there and to support the people working on their behalf.
Over the past two years – with our Commonwealth director Yolanda Alvarez and our stateside staff, led by the leader of our Humane State program, Tara Loller — our work has touched virtually every aspect of animal protection in the Commonwealth. The program has been widely embraced by island-wide and local government leaders, educators, law enforcement personnel, shelter directors, hotel operators, other tourism officials, and so many others. (It has been so successful that we are adapting it and implementing like-minded programs in Oklahoma, Kansas, and soon, Ohio.)
In just two short years, Humane State Puerto Rico has racked up a remarkable set of accomplishments that include:
- Humane education: We have trained more than 2,000 teachers, social workers and directors; we are partnering with Johns Hopkins University and the Puerto Rico Department of Education to conduct a seminal study on the impact of humane education in the classroom. We provided grants for humane educators and Kind News magazine for 500,000 students for the last two years.
- Law enforcement training: We have signed an executive order with the government of Puerto Rico calling for the well-being and protection of animals, and trained over 2,050 law enforcement professionals on animal cruelty and protection.
- Spay/neuter clinics: Humane Society International and its partners are operating 16 continuous spay/neuter/vaccine clinics, reaching 78 percent of the island’s municipalities.
- Equine contraception program: We have provided contraception for more than 300 horses roaming the island of Vieques, and we are providing equine care, training, and equipment to ensure ongoing humane care.
- Animal transport: We have been relocating shelter animals to the mainland to reduce the burden on local shelters, with another 150 animals scheduled for transport in August.
- Shelter/rescue support: We provided training in critical skills for groups across the island, along with computers and shelter data collection software and other lifesaving equipment; we also provided grant funding to allow numerous groups to attend Animal Care Expo. We provide compassion fatigue seminars, to allow workers to cope with the difficult conditions and outcomes they face, even as we work to help them build life-affirming operations. We provided grants for the Sister Shelter Project.
With every passing month, we enhance the complexity of the Humane State Puerto Rico program because we dig deeper into animal welfare and find ways large and small to solve problems. One of the latest initiatives of our staff is a modest but important sub-campaign called “Operation Shelter Snuggle” — a program to provide beds for shelter pets.
Operation Shelter Snuggle is an offshoot of our Sister Shelter Project in Puerto Rico, a pioneering effort sponsored by Maddie’s Fund to partner shelters on the U.S. mainland with Puerto Rico’s animal shelters. The stateside shelters serve as mentors and provide one-on-one support to their “sister shelters” in Puerto Rico. When the sister shelters took their first tour in Puerto Rico, they found that almost without exception, all of the shelter animals sleep on the concrete floors, with none of the bedding or other creature comforts we’ve come to expect from professionally operated shelters. That lack of proper bedding did not reflect inattention or disregard for the animals; it was a resource issue, given that shelters did not have washing machines and had no way of providing clean blankets or towels for the animals.
So our Humane State team set about changing that. We partnered with Kuranda, a company that has been producing high-quality and easy-to-clean beds for shelter pets for years and has been a regular exhibitor at the HSUS Animal Care Expo. Together we hatched a plan to solicit donations for 1,000 beds, enough for every kennel in Puerto Rico, at cost. With the amazing support of groups like Mona Pants and the Sato Project, a publicity push from People Pets magazine, and the generosity of animal lovers nationwide, yesterday we secured support to purchase all 1,000 beds.
A few weeks from now our Humane State team in Puerto Rico will be joined by dozens of volunteers and we will partner with yet other organization, Bubba’s Beds, to assemble and deliver all of the 1,000 beds from Kuranda. And from that day on, no homeless cat or dog in a Puerto Rico shelter will have to sleep on a hard, cold floor again. It may seem like a small matter, but think about the importance of small comforts.
With the beds on the way, the people who care about the animals will be able to sleep better every night, too.