Rescue of Pets without Borders: 15 Years of Successful Work of the SPCA Puerto Vallarta
The SPCA Puerto Vallarta (Protective and Compassionate Society for the Animals) was founded in 2007. This non-profit organization helps to rescue animals in the streets or abandonment situations and promotes sterilization campaigns, in addition to facilitating the adoption of pets within our bay and to other countries.
The first location of this shelter or Sanctuary (as it is also known) was in a small two-bedroom house in the Paso Ancho neighborhood, which was conditioned to receive, care for and rehabilitate the dogs and cats that were taken off the streets. It provided many rescued animals with a safe haven.
With the passage of time, and as different needs arose, the SPCA Puerto Vallarta began to look for a larger space which would afford them the opportunity to assist more animals and provide better care to the animals they rescued. In this way, in 2012, they moved to their current location, which is located next to the banks of the Pitillal River.
A main objective of this hardworking group is to reduce the number of homeless dogs and cats in our destination. This goal has led to the organization working closely with foreign associations such as PVCA Animal Rescue (Canada) and PreVent Cruelty to Animals (United States). Its purpose is to facilitate the adoption of local animals and the transfer of them to those countries. To accomplish this, they must have the animals examined and have complete health documents (so they are medically authorized to travel).
Pet Relocation Program
Luz María Wong, director of SPCA Puerto Vallarta, shares the general details of this program that on average has rescued and relocated 200 dogs and cats per year.
“Upon arrival at the shelter, the animals go directly to a quarantine area. They remain here and are given a protocol that includes blood tests and a series of tests to detect different diseases. Then, if they test positive for a disease, the corresponding treatment is administered to the animal. Once our veterinarians verify that they are completely healthy, we have them photographed, and then we upload the photos and any relative information to a website where pets are posted for adoption,” she explains.
“When an adopter shows interest in a certain dog or cat, they are provided with an application to fill out. If the application is sufficient, a representative from one of the associations with which we collaborate abroad visits the house where the animal will live and reviews it in detail to ensure that it meets the necessary conditions. In this way they know who the owners will be and, if everything is in order, they proceed with the adoption of the pet,” she adds.
“At this point, what we call Flight Angels enter the scene. That is, our network of collaborators and friends in person and on social media begins to ask among their acquaintances if anyone is going to travel soon to the United States or Canada who could take the pet and deliver it directly to the adopter. We carry out the procedure and we bear all the expenses, which are mostly covered by the cooperation fee,” she says.
Adoptions also take place locally and the process for application is much the same: “Family members who have decision-making power are asked to fill out an application where they express their mutual agreement to integrate a pet into the home. After the application is reviewed, we do a visit to the house to make sure that the spaces are adequate to include the animal. If they meet these requirements, the cooperation fee that includes the sterilization surgery, some vaccines and other related expenses are covered.”
Dusty: The SPCA Puerto Vallarta Case Study
Wong pieced together the story of Dusty, an abandoned dog who was very ill when he was rescued, that has since been adopted and lives abroad with a Canadian family.
“Dusty was very skinny and suffered from practically all the diseases that a dog can have. He was found in the Mojoneras neighborhood in 2019, in an area where there was a lot of dust—hence his name. His physical condition was so depressing that he was confused with the surrounding land and his illnesses were so serious that we thought he would not survive. In fact, we didn’t know where to begin treating him. However, thanks to the work of the whole team, between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we were able to place him in Canada, and he remains strong and healthy today.”
Challenges for the Shelter
Hurricane Nora brought with her strong winds and heavy rains as she made landfall on our destination during August 2021. Unfortunately, these severe weather conditions caused the massive overflow of rivers, as well as devastating floods and landslides in several different parts of the city.
With the flooding of the Pitillal River and the trees that were caught up by and dragged in its current, the facilities and infrastructure of the SPCA Puerto Vallarta shelter suffered severe damage. “More than half of our land vanished and approximately 6,500 square feet of the building structure were lost. This included the 20 cages that made up the quarantine zone, the pool that served as a place to perform physical therapies and the cat area, as well as our dining room, a bathroom, the laundry and an apartment where our collaborators lived. Now we are only left with nine cages, a bathroom, a veterinary office that we have adapted as a storage area and the surgery room,” explains Wong.
Although in the short term they seek to gradually rebuild their facilities, one of their biggest challenges is to work on the reinforcement of the banks of the river, which require the implementation of gabion walls to function as effective protection against the possible presence of another meteorological phenomenon.
How to Help?
Primarily, this partnership can be supported in three ways:
- Through getting involved as a volunteer.
- With in-kind donations (while the cat food is Maintenance Cat, the dog food is Nature’s Domain, both from the Kirkland brand).
- Through tax-deductible economic donations through the organization’s website at spcapv.com.
In Memory of Janice Chatterton
Janice Chatterton, founder and president of the SPCA Puerto Vallarta, did in life what few do because she contributed to the changing of social behavior and saving many animals’ lives. She passed away in 2019 after suffering from a sudden illness.
Originally from California, Chatterton, an entrepreneur, arrived in our destination in 1990, when she bought the iconic Casa Bur-Sus to use as a vacation property—the home Richard Burton gave to Susan Burton after filming The Night of the Iguana. She set forth with renovations and purchasing of the surrounding villas. Eventually, this property became Casa San Ángel and finally, in 2003, Hacienda San Ángel, which it remains today.
Simultaneously, she developed the Sociedad Protectora y Compasiva por los Animales (Protective and Compassionate Society for the Animals) of Puerto Vallarta, a project that has been carried out with great success in our destination for 15 years.