New Mobile Veterinary Unit in Mexico will reach more animals than ever before

The new mobile veterinary unit and staff for Playa del Carmen, Mexico.In the fall of 2010, Project Managers Joaquin de la Torre and Erika Flores were driving through Playa del Carmen, Mexico, when they noticed a very desperate dog standing on the side of the road.

She would’ve been white if clean, but when they found her she was grey with dirt. Pink sores and hairless patches of skin covered her body, the result of ticks and untreated infections. She was so weak and hungry she could barely stand, and when they approached her they discovered she’d been so desperate for food that she’d begun eating the carcass of another dog hit and killed by a car.

Joaquin and Erika took this dog home and named her Esperanza, which means “hope” in Spanish.

Over two years later, she continues to inspire our work in Mexico.

She has symbolized all of the dogs and cats – from those at the Animal Control Center, to those waiting at local shelters, to those still ownerless and running the streets – who are hoping for a second chance.

She reminds us of the importance of teaching care and compassion, offering accessible veterinary resources, and finding ways to ensure dogs, cats, and people can be healthy and happy together.

Esperanza’s story and her name have never been more poignant than just two weeks ago, when the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was able to purchase the new Mobile Veterinary Unit for our project in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

This purchase was the result of years of work, months of planning, and the generosity of IFAW supporters around the world.

Not only have we purchased the Unit, but we are preparing to fill it with everything we need – from carriers and leashes to syringes and antibiotics.

Together with our partner Coco’s Cat Rescue, the Mobile Unit will be fulfilling critical needs that were identified through our project planning process. It will provide emergency assistance to un-owned animals injured on the streets, transport animals from disadvantaged neighborhoods to Coco’s Spay and Neuter Clinic, and reach neighboring, as well as, isolated Mayan communities to provide basic veterinary care.

The Unit will visit schools and public events to promote adequate guardianship, help to re-unite dogs captured by the Animal Control Center with their owners, and provide support during spay and neuter campaigns.

As one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America, the population in Playa del Carmen only continues to grow and with it, the number of dogs and cats. 

Previous estimates suggest there are likely tens of thousands of companion animals in the community, and we imagine the Mobile Unit will be very busy for years to come.

But while we are partnering with Coco’s Cat Rescue on the operations of the Mobile Unit, we’ll continue work on the other critical components of our project.

Our approach is a comprehensive one, and necessary to ensure that the lives of dogs and cats in Playa del Carmen improve both now and in the future.

This approach will include continuing to engage and plan with the community, learning about their unique sets of problems and working together to design the solutions.

In caring for animals and engaging community members, we are working to end animal suffering at the root.

We will be working for the long-term, humane management of the dog and cat populations, as well as cultivating a community that is wanting and able to care for its animals properly.

Education and outreach, policy development, communication, and networking to build community capacity will all be critical. In the months and years ahead we will continue to review our work and use these findings to improve what we do and how we do it.

Esperanza may be living a dog’s dream these days as a permanent member of Joaquin and Erika’s furry clan, but every day there are dogs and cats just like her in need of help.

We are thrilled that with the new Mobile Unit we can reach more animals than ever before and that this incredible resource will compliment all of our efforts on-the-ground.

іMuchas gracias a todas las personas en todo del mundo que apoyan nuestro trabajo en México! We couldn’t do it without you. 


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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters