Los Cabos Humane Society: Love and Hard Choices

Los Cabos Humane Society travel kennel Los Cabos Humane Society Operating

 

This is the fourth post in “The Other Side of the Peso’s” Cabo Series.

Los Cabos Humane Society vanIn last week’s post about the Solmar Foundation, I described a stop on the Helping Hands tour at Los Cabos Humane Society. En route, our tour guide mentioned that a decade ago, it wasn’t unusual to see stray animals all over Los Cabos, meaning both Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo. An American who had been coming to Cabo for twenty years, remarked she clearly remembered the roaming dogs even in the tourist areas. The disappearance of strays, our guide said, was due primarily to the work of Los Cabos Humane Society.   

At the LCHS shelter, workers greeted us as they hosed down the canine area. Nearly every cage was occupied, some with two dogs. Cats had free run in a large, open feline area. The facility was no-frills, but clean and the animal appeared well cared for.

Los Cabos Humane Society President Aida Trujillo

LCHS President Aida Trujillo

In a country where some 45% of the population lives in poverty and the government doesn’t fund animal shelters, you can hardly expect animal rights to figure as prominently as in the United States. And yet, the eight paid staff members, five unpaid board members—including President Aida Trujillo—and many volunteers at LCHS have soldiered on for twenty years. What’s impressive is their progress.

The day after the shelter visit, I interview Aida Trujillo, a native of Tijuana who explains in impeccable English, that “in the initial years, LCHS spent most of its time rounding up stray animals and, unfortunately, euthanizing them. Today, we focus much more on education and spaying/neutering.”  

She talks about the days when LCHS would round up 150-200 stray animals every month. “You used to see strays everywhere. These days, you don’t see that.” Back then, volunteers went house-to-house in the lower-income neighborhoods, knocking on doors and begging people to let them spay/neuter their dogs and cats for free. Doors were often shut in their faces.

Los Cabos Humane Society Spay/Neuter Clinic“The upper classes have always viewed their pets more like Americans do,” Trujillo continues. “Nowadays, middle class owners bring their pets into our free spay/neuter clinics, and we’re getting more and more people from lower-income neighborhoods. Our goal in 2013 was to do 3500 spay/neuters. We did 3503. We do ask for a $100-peso ($7.60 U.S.) donation, but not everyone can pay, and that doesn’t cover our costs.”

I express surprise at the numbers, and Trujillo goes on to say their record year was 2012 with 5085 spay/neuters. “We probably could have done as many in 2013, but we operate on donations, and we had to cut expenses.”   

LCHS women with dogsAdoptions have risen over the years. Ironically, only 40% are local. The other 60% of adopted pets head north. Los Angeles figures prominently in adoptions, and LCHS has a broker in Calgary, Canada where the shelter works with two groups. In 2012, four hundred animals were adopted. While the news is good, it’s sobering to hear Trujillo say that only 10% of the animals that come to LCHS are adopted. “Meaning you still put down the other 90%?” I ask. Trujillo nods as I do the math. “So you had to euthanize 3600 animals in 2012?” 

LCHS 3 dogsTrujillo is big on getting the harsh numbers and stark message out. “We still have a long way to go to change the mentality of Mexican society as a whole.”  LCHS gives talks at schools, to employees in Cabo hotels and resorts, anywhere members can get an audience. They explain that the whole community is affected, reminding listeners of the days when piles of poop littered public sidewalks and tourists took away an image of sad, roaming animals. Strays mean more ticks, fleas and diseases that can impact humans. LCHS urges people not to buy from “backyard breeders,” non-professionals who charge less but raise dogs under unscrupulous conditions.  LCHS created a Responsible Owners Club. They gladly encourage university students who want to volunteer at the shelter to fulfill their social service requirement.

What is Trujillo’s vision of the future for LCHS? “To continue to grow, we need more consistent funding. Our 2014 goal is to meet the same budget we had last year, $300,000. We need to do a better job of involving local businesses, emphasizing how our work affects the economy and business. Long term, we want to offer more low cost wellness clinics, increase our presence in schools, grow our facility here in Cabo and open a second one in San José del Cabo, work for animal protection laws and enforcement.” Trujillo says all this with the calm resolve of a veteran in the trenches.

Los Cabos Humane Society Surgery Contributions to the Los Cabos Humane Society may be made directly to LCHS or through Solmar Foundation, specifying the shelter. Donations to both organizations are tax deductible in Mexico and in the U.S. Donors may specify how they would like their contribution to be used.

Note: Special thanks to Sabrina Lear, Cabo photographer for the photos that appear in this post. Visit her website here .

See an English video about LCHS.

 

Comments

  1. CaliforniaWoman says:

    That’s a lot of animals to kill each month. Makes me sad. Americans in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico are working with the people and animals there and have made a big difference with their spay/neuter program as well. The town is much smaller so the numbers are not huge. In 2010, my first visit to Alamos, 50 or more stray dogs roamed the streets and were known to attack people. In 2013 I saw less than 15 and they were being fed by street vendors and were tamer. Samme Chitum, a NY writer, living in Alamos while doing her PhD dissertation, manages the Alamos spay/neuter clinic and is collecting heartwarming stories and photos of locals with their animals for a book I’m going to publish. We have two goals for the book: to raise money for spay/neuter programs and other clinic costs, and to increase local awareness of the sanctity of animal life – the joys and benefits of owning and loving a pet.

    • Leslie Patiño says:

      Fortunately (if that can be said in this case), the 3600 animals put down by LCHS is the annual total, not monthly. Here’s wishing the best of luck to the folks in Los Alamos who are doing similar work!

      • CaliforniaWoman says:

        Yes, I really applaud the LCHS for their work! Much dedication and compassion. Through such work good change is initiated; takes time to stem the tide!

  2. Besutifully written…very touching

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