By: Phillip Klumper
Animals are born on the street or are abandoned by their owners. Villa Michelle Animal Shelter operates at Calle Las Marias 110, Bo. La Quinta, in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and receives between 10,000 to 12,000 homeless or abandoned dogs and cats each year. Sounds impressive? It is, but only five percent of the animals get adopted. Villa Michelle unfortunately has to euthanize the remaining animals. As its director, Eugenio Crespo, said, “everyday, animals are sacrificed.” However, the shelter continues to operate in order to give hope to all homeless and abandoned animals as well as others belonging to the public in the Mayaguez area.
From 1989 onward, Villa Michelle has been owned and operated by a non-profit organization known as “Asociación pro Albergue y Protección de Animales” (APAYPA). The shelter has a staff of six people and two veterinarians. It also has volunteers who assist at the shelter.
“The concept of Villa Michelle is different from the other shelters,” Crespo said, “because it uses the American concept where the animals are all day long outside the cages playing.” “The animals have enough space to run around and exercise, as well as food and water inside and outside the cages,” he said.
Not only is Villa Michelle dedicated to providing shelter for homeless or abandoned animals, it tries to find homes for them. The shelter currently has approximately 150 dogs and 50 cats available for adoption. Everyone is invited to visit and see the animals. The shelter also has a website, http://www.villamichelle.net, in which it presents pictures of some of the available animals for the public. If an animal is adopted and the owner has an issue with it, such as an incompatibility issue or disobedience problem, Villa Michelle gladly accepts the animal back.
Villa Michelle also has a well equipped clinic. Every year, a dog or a cat is supposed to go through an exam and receive certain vaccines from the veterinarian. Examinations and vaccinations are to assist the pet in living a healthier and longer life. The clinic examines and provides vaccinations for the abandoned and homeless animals. As a service, the clinic also provides examinations and low-cost vaccinations for owners who need the service for their cats or dogs. The vaccinations are administered four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Additionally, the clinic offers low-cost spaying or neutering of animals for the public. The surgerys depends on the weight and type of animal and are done three days each week – Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
In addition to clinical services, Villa Michelle offers free educational programs for both adults and children to promote responsible animal ownership. The shelter has a volunteer humane educator, Sonia Estevez, who has a Bachelors of Science in Livestock Industries from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, teaches Agricultural Education, and belongs to and/or operates a variety of animal protection organizations. If her services are requested, Estevez provides talks and activities related to the humane treatment and respect for animals. Her services can be requested either by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (787) 429-1802.
During the year, Villa Michelle sponsors several events. In February, it conducts a “SATO SHOW” which anyone can participate by bringing his/her pet in order to compete in a variety of categories of events for trophies. In October, it holds a blessing of the animals’ ceremony for all types of animals at Parque de Próceres in Mayaguez.
In order to operate and do improvements to the facility, Villa Michelle relies currently on donations, memberships, and fund raising activities. It invites persons to donate money to the shelter or to become members in the APAYPA with a regular membership being $20 per year and a patron membership being $100 per year. Each year, the shelter also does a variety of fundraising activities. For example, it takes photographs of the animals or obtains photographs of APAYPA member’s pets and issues a calendar with some of the animals which is sold for $5. The shelter also does a May bake sale and a November vegetarian dinner.
To cut on operating costs, Villa Michelle relies on volunteers. The volunteers help take care of the animals or assist with maintenance at the shelter. Students from local schools, like Colegio San Benito, also come and do their required community service at the shelter.
Villa Michelle is a shelter that is truly dedicated to helping the problem of homeless and abandoned animals as well as assisting pet owners in the Mayaguez area. If you are willing to serve as a volunteer or need some more information about Villa Michelle, you can contact them at (787) 834-4510.