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Small Islands, Big Hearts

A look at the island organizations helping our furry friends

For a relatively small island Vieques is packed with big-hearted people who work hard to improve life for the island’s animals. Four local non-profits focus on a variety of ways to help our pets and wildlife, from creating safe havens to finding loving homes to fostering an understanding between the island’s people and its animals.

Whether you’re here for a short visit or an extended stay there are several ways you can do your part. “This is a real place where tourists can help the animals,” says Mary Anne Mather, Board Secretary of the Vieques Humane Society and Animal Rescue. Consider donating your time, resources and expertise while you’re here and even after you’ve gone home.

Vieques Humane Society and Animal Rescue

Started in in the early 1980s by a group of animal-loving islanders, the Vieques Humane Society and Animal Rescue offers a comprehensive solution to animal care. Their Santa Maria shelter houses upwards of 100 animals at any time, including cats, dogs and even a few horses. VHSAR also operates a re-homing program with partner organizations in the United States to find loving, off-island homes for animals in need. In addition, the non-profit runs spay and neuter clinics and provides a low-cost veterinary clinic that’s open to all animals on the island. “We offer opportunities for the island community to provide responsible care for their own animals,” Mary Anne Mather explains.

Between 2013 and 2015, VHSAR spayed and neutered about 1,000 dogs, and the organization found homes for 214 animals in need between December 2015 and September 2016.

How can you help?

VHSAR operates a thrift store in Mambiche, and all proceeds benefit the organization’s great work. Several on-island fundraisers throughout the year, including bingo nights, hurricane pools, concerts, cooking competitions and an art auction at the Siddhia Hutchinson Gallery, allow VHSAR to raise money and build awareness. You may have seen Miss Fuzzi for sale at local stores; this adorable children’s book is based on one of the organization’s best success stories. VHSAR also produces an annual calendar complete with photos of local residents and their lovable pets; the 2017 edition is on sale now.

For details, more information or to make a donation visit


Five years ago a group of forward-thinking animal advocates established Juntos, an outreach organization that promotes humane education on the island. Through the non-profit a humane education-certified teacher works with young students to promote an understanding of animals and the environment. In fact, one local middle school recently became a humane-certified school.  The subject is an essential part of the students’ curriculum, and there’s a section in the school library devoted entirely to books on the subject. When school’s out, Juntos runs a week-long summer camp. So far, the organization estimates it has reached roughly 1,600 Viequense kids.

In addition to its in-school presence Juntos participates in outreach visits to the island’s many barrios. “We call it completing the circle of care,” says Andrea Kaufman, local veterinarian and Juntos Board Secretary. Working with Puerto Rico’s department of social work, Juntos representatives educate residents on the right way to treat animals. “We want to expand the barrio visits as much as we can,” says Andrea. Juntos hopes to soon declare the island’s first humane-certified barrio, where community members can tout their pride about their collective treatment towards animals and the environment.

How can you help?

Juntos encourages interested volunteers to offer their time and resources, be it grant writing, teaching, legal expertise or other services. Stores across the island carry clothing and other items adorned with the Juntos logo, and all proceeds benefit the organization’s efforts; show your support by buying something and sporting it when you get back home. Juntos works with the Vieques Rotary Club on events to raise money, including an annual ticketed dinner party and high-end auction that is always a crowd-pleaser.

For details, more information or to make a donation visit

Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue

Laurie Mosher conceived of the idea for Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue in 2013 after her adopted sato (island dog), J. Edgar, passed away from prior neglect. “After his death, I vowed to help as many satos as I could,” she explains. She does so by coordinating rescue trips to bring dogs from Vieques to Canada, where they can then be adopted into forever homes.

What started as a one-woman operation has flourished, thanks in part to devoted volunteers and collaborations with the VHSAR and the Hamilton Burlington SPCA in Canada. Laurie transports about seven dogs each month, and to date, 87 dogs have been flown off island and adopted.

“I have been doing this for a little over two years, and it’s the best thing I do,” says Laurie.

How can you help?

OBFCR pays for the flights, medications, kennels and microchipping, which can add up to some high costs. The organization holds two fundraisers in Hamilton, Canada each year; a “nine and dine” golf tournament and a softball tournament. Interested volunteers can contact OBFCR about setting up local fundraisers in their own communities.

For details, more information or to make a donation visit

Vieques Island Animal Sanctuary

Oftentimes older or infirm animals are unlikely to get adopted, but that doesn’t mean they are less deserving than their spry counterparts. Hard-to-adopt animals can find a forever home at the Vieques Island Animal Sanctuary. This kindhearted organization aims to eradicate animal homelessness across the island. Run by Wendy Price, VIAS offers food, medical care, and shelter and refuge for a menagerie of dogs, cats, fish, birds, turtles, rabbits and horses. The sanctuary sits on several acres where animals can coexist and live out their days in a loving and safe environment.

How can you help?

VIAS is always in need of supplies that help keep the operation up and running. Consider donating animal food, medicine, veterinary care, shelter and fence repair, horse feed, bird seed, chicken feed, cat litter, stainless steel food and water bowls, chain link, rejas, tin, plywood, metal poles, cement blocks, sheets, towels, chew toys, houses and beds for dogs, wind generators and solar panels.

For details, more information or to make a donation visit

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