For any animal lover who travels to or lives in Mexico, there are few sorer (is that a word?) subjects than the state of dogs in this country. Anyone who has driven around the countryside or spent any time in the cities has seen far too many starving and mangy dogs. But the whole dog situation here in Merida seems to be undergoing a change, slowly but surely.
There is an entire segment of Mexican society that treats its dogs the same way they are treated in the US or Europe. They are valued family pets, given their vaccinations, taken to the vet when they are sick, groomed regularly, etc.
The poorer Mexicans consider dogs a nuisance, an extra mouth to feed and often a dangerous animal to be avoided. And of course, because these dogs are starving and often sick, they can be dangerous and often should be avoided.
The disconnect here is that Mexicans in general do not approve of sterilizing their dogs (it’s a Catholic thing, we hear) and/or they can’t afford it. Vets seem to charge a lot of money to do it and are just now realizing that maybe it’s in everyone’s best interest if they lower the price.
Which brings me to AFAD. In Spanish, AFAD stands for Albergue Fransiscano del Animal Desprotegido. In English, that is Franciscan Shelter for Unprotected Animals. The woman who runs it is a woman named Lidia Saleh. She runs the shelter, which consists of a large plot of land which was donated to this cause. On the land is a two room house that Lidia is fixing up to eventually be a surgical station and a storage room. The dogs have recently-built covered cages with concrete floors. The shelter rescues dogs and cats from the streets and also takes dogs and cats whose owners no longer want them.
One of her rescues is a big Staffordshire Bull Terrier who had apparently been used for fighting. He still sports a few cuts that are healing, but his disposition is sweet and loving with humans. This picture shows him sitting on his new mat that we had just brought to him and thanking me in his own doggy way. Another one of AFAD’s rescues is a purebred Doberman who was given to her because he is 6 years old and his owner doesn’t want to have to deal with him getting old and dying. Obviously, he’s nowhere near death, but he’s also not acclimated to other dogs, so he has to stay in a pen by himself.
Most of the dogs are together in the main pen. Last time we were there, there were about 30 grown dogs, including beautiful golden labs, mutts, a dalmation and about 15 puppies. There were a few sick dogs that are being cared for and nursed back to health as well. The cats and kittens are in a separate location. What surprised us the most was how friendly, gentle and easygoing all these dogs are. We’ve gone into the main pen a few times now to meet and greet the dogs, and they all just want to be loved, petted and scratched behind the ears. There hasn’t been any fighting or growling and they all seem pretty happy.
The shelter is staffed full time with one person who works hard to keep it clean, and feeds the dogs as well as watches over the dogs being nursed back to health. Lidia busily promotes her dog shelter to the Spanish-speaking population so that Meridanos looking for a dog will come rescue one from the shelter instead of buying one in a store. She carefully checks out the new owners and their homes to be sure that each dog is going to a better place.
If you are interested in adopting a dog or a cat, please call AFAD and arrange to meet the dogs there. Or just drop by between the hours of 10 in the morning and 6 pm.
If you would like to volunteer, they would always like people to come and play with the dogs. And dogs like the Doberman need to be walked…a perfect job for a volunteer. If you are too busy to walk a dog, but you want to help, AFAD needs donations. Not just money, but things like dog and cat food, bones and chew toys, blankets and towels (to line the boxes that they sleep in so they can stay warm at night), medicines, shampoos, etc. They are also hoping to build more kennels, so any sort of construction materials are welcome donations as well.
It would also be a big help if an English-speaking person here in Merida would help Lidia with her fundraising efforts. Just running the shelter and improving it so that it can help more dogs is heart-breaking and back-breaking work. Lidia also needs to organize dinners and other fundraisers to raise the money. If you are interested in donating money to the organization, please do so through the Paypal donation button at the end of this article.
For more information, check AFAD’s website. Or you can email at afadmerida [at] gmail [dot] com or call the shelter at 999-920-5019 or call Lidia on her cel phone at 044 999 947 6319. If you ask, Lidia can send you a full list of the medicines, supplies and other things that the shelter would like donated. *Anything* is appreciated and will be put to good use. So don’t throw old towels, moving blankets or throw rugs away if they get ruined. Wash them as best you can and donate them to AFAD.
If you want to drop by, you will find the shelter on the road to Cholul, just past the Periferico, on the left across from the University Modelo. Just look for this sign. For more information on AFAD, please read their website here (in both Spanish and English). About halfway down the page, there is a list of items that you can donate that would be greatly appreciated.
The animals thank you in advance for your time, attention and kind consideration.
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If you wish to donate money to AFAD, you may do so by clicking the Paypal button below. Please make a note with your payment that your donation if for AFAD. The money will go into our account and you will have to trust us that we’ll give it to the animals. We will… you have our word!
Lidia and AFAD are not the only one taking on the issue of caring for the “unprotected animals” in the Yucatan, but they are the most established group in Merida. Other organizations that are helping animals in the Yucatan include:
- AFAD, one of Merida’s non-profit animal shelters (discussed above).
- Evolucion, Merida’s other non-profit animal shelter
- Isla Mujeres Animal Shelter and Rescue
- Rescate Malix – an organization on the Riviera Maya that rescues “malix” dogs, the Mayan version of “mutts”