Dream Under Construction: Why space at new Coco’s clinic is so important

The previous building had patients on any available floorspace.

The other day I invited someone to take a look at what will be the new Coco´s Animal Welfare clinic, who is our partner in Playa del Carmen. I had been wanting to stop by, to check on how things were going with the construction.

When I arrived at the construction site I was pleasantly surprised; the project is going extremely well and the building looks huge! But do you know what? The clinic is still not as big as the need behind it.

Coco´s Animal Welfare used to be named Coco´s Cat Rescue, but since I first came to know them almost six years ago, they have become so much more than just a cat rescue. When I first started working with Coco’s, they were a low-cost spay and neuter clinic with one surgeon who conducted around 10 sterilizations per day, plus some consults for rescued kittens.

Today, Coco´s performs no less than 20 surgeries plus around 5-10 consultations per day.  More than 40 messages and pages of emails are answered every day, plus the unexpected!

And best of all, the animals that Coco’s treats are rescued animals, animals with no homes and nowhere else to get the veterinary care that they need.

Nowadays, Coco´s helps more than 500 animals per month, primarily through free consultations to rescued cats and kittens and low-cost veterinary services for rescued dogs. Coco´s provides low cost spay and neuter for all of the animals it treats. They even provide free sterilization to Animal Protection Groups, as well as to citizens who have rescued an animal, and anyone that is unable to afford it.

Because they treat any homeless or rescued animals, they have many more clients than any other rescue in the area. Coco’s also has a unique opportunity to work closely with community members.

Through outreach programs and the mobile clinic, Coco’s staff is able to reach the impoverished, isolated neighborhoods surrounding the city of Playa del Carmen, to spread the word about adequate guardianship and bring veterinary services to people that would otherwise have no access to services for their pets.

The new building will boast spacious common spaces.

Nevertheless, Playa del Carmen is one the fastest growing cities in the world. Yes you read correctly… in the world! So you can imagine that the amount of animals is increasing each day as well. Luckily, our new clinic will help us greatly increase the numbers of animals, in order to meet the growing need.

When you first enter the clinic, there is a reception area complete with space for people to wait comfortably with their pets before their appointment. I know that it sounds crazy, that one can be so excited about having a reception area. But the small house where Coco´s clinic is currently housed doesn´t have one.

This means that in the same room, patients are received, weighed, and anesthetized, and prepped for surgery. Later, they are brought back into that same area, where on the floor yoga mats and towels are placed to receive the animals for recovery. Here, they are kept under close observation by our volunteers; their nails are clipped, their ears are cleaned, and they are kept warm.

Once they start to wake up, they go back to their carriers. All of this is done in the same small space – and all the while the phone is ringing, the door being opened, closed and knocked on just a few steps away, someone working at a tiny desk to answer emails and take phone calls, and volunteers are exchanging information about patients in recovery. Everything is so tight, chaotic, and stressful for the patients!  

At the new clinic, there will be a separate room for patients to be prepared, a proper office, and even a lunch room for staff. Also, we will be able to have a room to hold dogs to recover properly after a surgery, where they will be able to stay a couple of nights until they are returned to their communities. Having the proper space for recovery is essential, especially for roaming dogs, so the wounds don´t get infected.

Sometimes, if a person who doesn’t speak Spanish brings an animal in, we aren’t able to fully communicate post-operative care instructions. When we have barriers like that, we would like the dogs to be kept at the clinic for a little bit to avoid any complications. Right now in our current clinic, there is no space and we are often prevented from taking these precautions.

The new clinic will also have a multipurpose room, where we will be able to receive children and teach them about adequate guardianship. They will be able to watch movies, play games, and learn about animal’s rights and needs.

In this room, staff and volunteers will be able to hold meetings and conduct trainings. I am not kidding when I tell you that this happens now in a tiny room upstairs in the old clinic, with 6 people crowded into an area so small that there isn’t even room for chairs, so people must either stand or sit on the crowded floor to receive important staff trainings.

We have given this project a lot of thought, and have been working on this for over a year. We have done lots of research, held many meetings, and together have established the framework needed to make this dream a reality. We have policies written up, and a brand new set of protocols in place for everything from receiving the patients to how to clean the floors.

We have thought long and hard about how to give more to the community, how to improve adoption numbers, and how we can help people who rescue an animal in need.

The modern look of the building is starting to take shape.

For years, Coco’s has been making the most out of their cramped situation, and helping as many animals and people as they can possibly squeeze into their tiny clinic. Just imagine how much more Coco´s will be able to do with the proper space! Just think how many more animals we will be able to help, once this project is completed. Thank you for helping this dream come true.

¡Muchas gracias!


Help us provide the care the dogs and cats of Playa del Carmen will need when the clinic opens, and ease animal suffering wherever we find it.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy