LIVING / What You Don't Know About AFAD

What You Don't Know About AFAD

What You Don't Know About AFAD

20 September 2012 Family & Pets, LIVING 8

Editor's Note: The oldest dog shelter in Merida was created by one of the first expats to arrive in Merida, Georgia Charuhas. She acquired the land (near the Cholul exit of the Periferico) and started the organization. After a few years of dedicated service, she handed it over to local women who continued to run it as the only shelter at the time (other than the city-run perrera). In the last few years, thankfully, other shelters have sprung up in the Merida area and along the beach, most notably Evolución, which because of the participation of a number of dedicated expats, gets a lot of press in the English-speaking milieu. AFAD has continued to work, often behind the scenes, to benefit the companion animals of Merida. The current director, Lidia Saleh, works with the other shelter directors, as well as the city and state, always furthering the cause of the companion animals who are so often mistreated in this area.

Recently, we were sent a few emails about an upcoming AFAD event and a recent meeting between some interested expats and the AFAD director at the beach. We felt it was important to share this with all our readers, so that you too could understand what a huge contribution AFAD has been making to Merida, the beach communities and the Yucatan. The following was written by Cindy Wagner (with some editing by us), with information added from various other emails we received from various other people, and sent to us by Debbie Moore of YAPA. YAPA is an organization dedicated to providing English-speaking expat resources to all the organizations in Yucatan that help companion animals... if you don't speak Spanish but want to help with these issues, contact YAPA! We hope you will enjoy reading about the contribution of AFAD and will donate your time or resources to assist them in the coming years.

AFAD is in Merida and Progreso

AFAD Merida and AFAD Progreso have been helping the animals all along the beach coast and in Merida for over 15 years!! They do all their promotions in Spanish so many of us English speakers have no idea what they are doing for us and the animals every day. AFAD runs the only animal shelter near the beach communities, and as many of us are aware by experience, it often operates at capacity. One of the reasons they need to be so strict about this is that they currently receive funding from the Pedigree Shelter Grant program, which requires an operational proposal be submitted and adhered to each year in order to receive funds. Not every shelter who applies for these grants is accepted, by far, which indicates that AFAD must be doing their homework.

Each year, in early November, AFAD puts on a fundraiser that attracts about 200-250 Meridanos. It is a great event, and on the agenda for the evening is a year-end review of their statistics and accomplishments. Everything they do is out in the open... they practice totally transparency! Last year, for $200 pesos, attendees at the event enjoyed plenty of food, entertainment, wine and soft drinks. At last year's event, only nine people from the expat community attended, meaning that we were very under-represented!!

This Year Could Be Better

This year, a group of expats all along the coast have decided to help them bring their message out to the expat community. Everyone appreciate the changes that they have worked so hard to make for the quality of life, and for the quality of the lives of the dogs and cats in this area. These expats have offered to help in three ways.

1. Sell tickets for the event to be held on Saturday, November 10th from 7 pm to 11 pm. Tickets purchased before the event cost only $180 pesos per person and include food, drink & entertainment
2. Help to get donations of bottles of wine and/or food or both
3. Ask others to help sell tickets and/or get wine & food donated

But why should you donate your time or resources without knowing who they are and what they do?

Here, briefly, is who they are and what they have done over the last few years.

What Does AFAD Do?

Many expats participate in the Spay & Neuter Clinics which are coming up on their fourth year in operation in this area. Many of us who volunteer and donate items for the spay/neuter clinics, have noticed all the orange shirts the past few years. These are all AFAD volunteers. AFAD is the organization that paid for the large spay and neuter clinics in Progreso in 2010 and 2011 (the government provided zero dollars). AFAD found a sponsor to pay at the 11th hour, which paid for all of the materials. AFAD also got the location donated for the event, as well as the volunteers and the food.

AFAD approached the City of Progeso to pay for the clinic in January of 2012 but it was eventually paid for personally by the outgoing mayor, thanks to AFAD. The events over these three years meant that 500, 650 and 750 animals respectively were spayed or neutered in Progreso alone.

AFAD pays for and provides medication to the City of Progreso to humanely care for sick and dying animals that are picked up by the city, as well as the drugs needed to provide humane euthanasia when needed. The City of Progreso previously used other means (we don't want to talk about those...) before AFAD stepped in. AFAD Progreso now provides the properly trained personnel to provide humane and proper care for these animals free of charge.

AFAD recently worked with Evolución and Planned Pethood to change the laws about the treatment of the horses in the State of Yucatan and the City of Merida. Veterinarians are now checking the horses that haul around the tourists and the bags of dirt. They must be healthy, fed, watered and properly cared for, as well as given shade and/or coverage during severe weather conditions. AFAD has also worked to create the current laws that make prolonged restrictive chaining, neglect, forced fighting, and outright abuse illegal for domestic animals. It is a very important first step to have this law on the books, in order for enforcement to follow along. AFAD works with law enforcement as well.

AFAD also worked, along with Evolución and Planned Pethood, to improve conditions in the state-run dog pound (la perrera). The director, Lidia, along with others, met personally with the Secretary of Health and invited him to come view the conditions of the perrera. As a result of their efforts, the workers who had been abusing and neglecting animals were let go, and a veteranarian (graduated from the local UADY vet school) is now directing all activities at the facility. There is still work to be done to assure beneficial adoptions, etc. and AFAD continues to be involved.

AFAD is the only shelter in the Progreso area and in North Merida where you can take an animal to get it adopted. After they pay to have it tested for distemper and Parvo, they work to place the animal in adoption. They refuse no animal and only ask for a donation to help pay for the food. There are lots of cats at AFAD too, and of course their main focus is in finding homes and they are very good at it. Last year they re-homed 240 animals.

AFAD pays to spay/neuter every single animal that is adopted out. Three home visits and an identity tag are given to each adoptee, ensuring that they will be well cared for in their new home. The President of AFAD puts her personal phone number on each tag should the animal escape, as well as a stamp that says "esterilizado", which reduces the chance of a pet being stolen for breeding purposes.

AFAD also has an onsite surgery facility. This facility is open to every visiting Veterinarian that would like to come and help. Three vets from London, Ontario spend their vacations doing surgeries for a few days each year that I know of personally.

Working Gringos would like to add that they have brought five or six animals to AFAD over the years for adoption, and have always been pleased with the care and love that the animals receive. We have worked closely with Lidia, who runs the shelter, and have been gratified at her judgement and kindness to all the animals under her care. We are also aware that AFAD was involved in creating and placing the billboards around Merida that feature a dog being walked, which says (in Spanish) "I would do it for you!". In addition, AFAD has created educational materials which they continue to place into schools around Merida, with the knowledge that the only way to permanently change the condition of companion animals in the Yucatan is through education of the young people.

Spa Day!

AFAD runs a Spa day every Friday. On this day, AFAD is open to all volunteers to come out and bathe and clip the dogs to make them look their best for Saturday and Sunday Adoption Days. Every Friday, from 11am until about 1pm or until the dogs are all clean, a fine group of folks show up at the shelter and bathe and walk and groom and socialize the dogs who are up for adoption. This way they look great on Saturday and Sunday when the public comes in to check them out. They can always use more hands, and the more people who come, the easier and more fun the work is and the more attention these dogs get, meaning the more adoptable they will become. The coordinator, Mary Maas, is bilingual and super friendly and helpful. There is no commitment... just show up and decide for yourself how you want to participate. You can go one Friday and skip the next. English is spoken, and everyone is welcome. If you need a sit-down job, just let Mary know. You can be a "detailer", as there is always a long-hair pup that needs detangling, or a newbie that needs extra attention and reassurance.

Don't Buy, Adopt! And Participate!

AFAD is open every Saturday and Sunday to the public to get the dogs adopted once they are all healthy and vet-checked.

For further information about AFAD, please go to their website If you would like to attend or donate to the November 10 event, please contact contact YAPA and talk to Cindy Wagner. You can also buy tickets at the next Funkymarket at Tacomaya. We encourage you to buy tickets to their upcoming event, and to support them in any way you see fit. In addition, we sincerely hope that when you decide to bring a pet into your family, or you know someone making that decision, that you will go to AFAD and adopt one of the beautiful dogs or cats they have who are looking for a home.


  • Working Gringos 9 years ago

    Thank YOU, Georgia. For those of our readers who don't know this, Georgia, Merida's most accomplished and famous expat artist, was the one who worked tirelessly (with others, as she points out) to secure the property for AFAD and start the animal shelter. Her legacy proudly and happily lives on!

  • georgia charuhas 9 years ago

    What a wonderful interesting article on Afad. I'm so proud of the job being done by their volunters and staff. I remember when it didn't exist and there was such a great need. I spent 2 years pleading in government offices for a piece of land, and finally with the help of Doña Maria Eugenia Zaragoza, who arranged many special events of gala nights of good musical entertainment, it all took off. From the first big event, I thought it was magic... that an idea and a dream could actually became real. Thank you Ellen!

  • Working Gringos 10 years ago

    Linda, the Spay and Neuter Clinic has just finished. However, there are lots of things you can do and plenty of places to help! We suggest you contact Debbie Moore at YAPA ( and let her know you are available. She will have suggestions about where you could go to help! Thanks, and welcome to the Yucatan!

  • Linda Carson 10 years ago

    I see Spanish notifications at some restaurants in Progresi for a Spay/Neuter day in January. Can I get more information? I have recently moved to Yucatan from the States and decided long ago I would become involved once I moved here. I bred and showed dogs for 35 years and I think my knowledge could be valuable. (Pekingese, Japanese Chins, Papillons and limited with Rhodesian Ridgebacks.) Now that I only have one Papillon and a muttley from a shelter, I'm kinda lost without a pack of furry guys around. I haven't seen that exit on the Periferico. Can someone guide me to it?

  • Isaac Salim 11 years ago

    I got my tickets, I will be there ! =)

  • Pat Dixon 11 years ago

    Just to let you know, I wish I was there to help you all. All three of my "babies" are shelter dogs. Shelter dogs just seem to have a bigger heart and more love to give people.

  • Mary Maas 11 years ago

    Thanks for a great update on the work of AFAD and its many volunteers!
    I'd like to emphasize that anyone is WELCOME to join us at Viernes de Spa (Spa Friday), at the Cholul shelter -- the AFAD Spa team is a group of foreign and Mexican volunteers, and it's not necessary to speak Spanish (but if you're interested in practicing and learning Spanish, it's a good opportunity for that as well).
    At Spa, we bathe, walk, and pamper the dogs, and just spend time to help nervous dogs relax. At the moment, the dogs at the shelter range from a Great Dane to French Poodles -- and everything in between -- so there are dogs to fit the energy levels of all volunteers. Be sure and wear clothes that you don't mind getting wet or dirty.
    To get to the AFAD shelter in Cholul, from the Periférico, take the Altabrisa/Cholul exit towards Cholul -- the shelter is about 1/2 km from the exit, on the left (north) side of the road, just across from Universidad Modelo. Come at 11, and ring the bell or knock at the gate.
    If you do speak Spanish, there are more opportunities -- educational talks at schools, working with the adoption team, etc.
    For more information about AFAD, or to contact the volunteer coordinator (Spanish-speaking), see AFAD's Facebook page (AFAD A.C., and AFAD A.C. Pagina), my Facebook page (Mary Maas) or come and visit the shelter any Friday from 11-1.

  • Dan Powell 11 years ago

    Tickets for the November 10th event are also on sale this weekend at Thai Flash in Progreso. Friday and Sunday at the restaurant. Saturday at the Yucatan Polo Club.

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