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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Every Atheist Needs: Tierra De Animales

As you may or may not know, I’ve been in Mexico for the past two weeks. My family and I used to live there, my son was born there and my brother just got married there. We traveled down to attend the wedding.

I moved back to Canada about 5 years ago. When I lived in Playa Del Carmen, stray dogs and cats were a huge problem. They were everywhere. Dogs and cats that were extremely diseased and lots of them injured and sick. They wandered the streets and along the Carretera Federal getting hit by cars and eating trash. It was common to see lots of dead dogs and cats near the roads. They would have litters of kittens and puppies in the jungle and abandoned buildings, many of which became food for snakes, died of starvation or dehydration or instantly caught some tropical disease and died. Those that survived became street dogs, living wild, unfixed and making more babies.

As an animal lover, and proud mommy to a rescue dog myself, this totally broke my heart. We’d be in a taxi and a street dog would wander in front of us on the road and we’d all start shrieking at the cabbie, “No! No! Más despacio! Dios mio!”. We never hit one, but if it weren’t for us freaking out in the back seat, those animals would have been killed.

This problem exists in all developing countries in the world. Everywhere that there is poverty, there is a stray animal population. It’s totally understandable, too. When you have no idea how you’re going to feed your children, you really don’t give two shits about the dog roaming your block and how well he’s doing.

There are only 3 ways to solve the problem humanely.

The first way is to eliminate poverty. It’s sad that the act of saying that out loud or typing it in a serious blog post just sounds ridiculous and unlikely. It shouldn’t be. Poverty should be something we can tackle as the smartest and most capable species on Earth.

Mom and pup

My mom drying a freshly bathed pup in Playa Del Carmen

The second, is to educate the children in the area. Teach them about animals, rid them of their fear of them. Get these kids to fall in love with them and they will grow up caring enough to change the situation.

Finally, the third, is to spay and neuter all of the street animals. Again, this sounds like a lofty idea, but let me tell you now that the work of a wonderful organization in Playa Del Carmen has done that. They are Coco’s Cat Rescue and they have successfully cleaned up the stray problem in Playa Del Carmen. The strays are all but gone.

I have not been to Playa in 3 years, I haven’t lived there for 5. When I went back this time, I warned my stepdaughter, who had never been there before, that she would see many strays and lots of them would be in terrible condition.

We were there for 2 weeks. We saw one stray dog and one stray cat.

I asked my brother, who still lives there, what had changed. He told me that Coco’s Cat Rescue has been spay and neutering up to 20 stray dogs and cats, per day in the city. They drive around, collect the animals they can find, take them back to their operating room and when they’ve recovered from the procedure, they are released again.

Andy and Pup

A friend hanging out with a rescue

I was seriously impressed. When I lived in Playa, I used to volunteer for an organization called the Peanut Pet Shelter, which has slowly morphed into Playa Animal Rescue or PAR. PAR has worked alongside Coco’s providing shelter for as many animals as they can but it is often that they simply have no more space to take in new animals. That’s why Coco’s approach has been so successful. It’s how you face the problem, when you haven’t the space to care for all the animals yourself. Fix them, stop the breeding, slow the population.

During this trip, I attended my brother’s wedding, who asked that we don’t give them gifts and asked for donations to an animal rescue in Cancun instead. I asked him why that organization, Tierra De Animales, instead of Coco’s or PAR. He explained that Coco’s and PAR have some very wealthy donors and they usually get what they need. Tierra De Animales, on the other hand, was in great need of donations and volunteers.

The dog pack

Dogs at the Peanut Pet Shelter

During the wedding reception, a friend of my brother’s got up and talked about the owner of Tierra De Animales, Hector. She spoke of his heart and his devotion to the animals and told us a story about how he drove from Belize to Texas to get a street dog in Belize to new adoptive owners in the USA. He drove 5 days through scary parts of Mexico with the dog only to hand him over the border and drive back for 5 days through it all again. He did it with his own money, his own time and his own car, to save one dog’s life.

I don’t have a lot of money. In fact, we got a lot of help from family just to make it to the wedding. I felt bad that I could not donate very much to Tierra De Animales for my brother and his awesome new wife. So, I am asking you to. With enough help, this man can do for Cancun what Coco’s did for Playa Del Carmen.

As an atheist, I look at the problem logically but I can’t help but feel emotion. Logically speaking, we bred these animals over centuries to be dependent on us. It is our responsibility to care for them. If we had not interfered with their evolution; if we had not domesticated them, they would still be wild animals that could fend for themselves. Instead, they are dependent creatures who need human hands to feed them and care for them. I am a humanist, and part of that is being humane. Please, help Hector save the animals of Cancun. Click here to donate and remember to congratulate B&T on their recent marriage. Remember that in Mexico, a dollar goes a lot further than in the US or Canada. Even the tiniest donations can help, and if you still can’t donate, please share this post as much as you can so Hector can get some help.


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