Animal Welfare in Cuba: Aniplant Cares for and Protects Dogs and Cats

Animal welfare in Cuba is a daunting challenge.  On my recent trip to Cuba, I had the honor of meeting Nora Garcia Pérez, the founder of Aniplant, an animal care and protection organization in Havana.  Nora has dedicated the past 28 years of her life to the animals of Cuba:  from big ventures like founding Aniplant and promoting animal welfare on Cuban radio and TV, to smaller efforts like traveling around Havana in a little yellow Fiat with the passenger seat removed to make room for two street dogs who sleep in the car every night.

Aniplant, or Asociación Cubana para la Protección de Animales y Plantas, is located in Centro Havana, not far from the University and only steps from the beautiful Malecón sea wall.   Aniplant seeks to eliminate the suffering of Cuban animals through sterilization campaigns to reduce the number of strays, public education to promote the need for good veterinary care and animal health, facilitation of dog/cat adoptions, and hands-on intervention in cases of animal abuse.  

If you’re a dog lover and have ever been to Cuba–or to any third world country for that matter–you know the helpless heartache of seeing painfully thin and sick animals on the streets.  And while Cuba is a highly educated, healthy and empathetic population, their lack of resources is a tremendous problem.  Often, people simply do not have the means to properly care for animals.  That means that many dogs/cats go without spaying/neutering, resulting in unwanted animals roaming the streets in search of food and shelter.  The Cuban government collects strays from city streets, and almost all of those dogs/cats are immediately euthanized by poisoning or electrocution.  Aniplant’s main mission is to reduce the number of strays by providing as many spay/neuters as possible.  They have performed nearly 5,000 sterilizations each year since 2012 and are currently trying to expand operations throughout Havana and all of Cuba.   Like everything related to Cuba, it is complicated.  While Aniplant is the only animal protection organization permitted to function in Cuba, there are ministries and permissions to deal with and there are the obstacles of getting medical supplies and donations around the U.S. embargo.

The Aniplant location at 128 Principe is home to 19 dogs:  16 adoptable ones and 3 waiting to be on their way to homes in the UK and the USA.  The dogs have the run of the back areas of Aniplant–the kitchen, a play area outside and a little room just off the courtyard.  There are employees at Aniplant who work to train and socialize the dogs, and to prepare their meals of rice and meat.  A veterinarian and vet tech are also on staff for routine procedures and emergency care.  And every Friday, hundreds of pounds of meat for dog food are delivered to Aniplant to be sold to the community for fundraising.  The place is immaculate, colorful, lively and upbeat–the receptionist sings on occasion and offers tiny cups of strong coffee to those waiting patiently for services.  Dog and cat owners chat with each other and hold their pets close in the tiled lobby.  Potential adopters check in at reception and discuss the adoption application process.  And every now and then, the dogs break into barks or whines as a visitor makes their way back through the courtyard.

I spent several days at Aniplant, photographing and videotaping and will have a short multimedia piece to share with you soon.   In the meantime, if you are moved by this story, please consider a small donation to the Aniplant Project.   Considering that veterinarians in Cuba make only about $250 a year, any amount of money donated will go a long way to helping the animals.   Donate to Aniplant.    Nora’s wish list also includes a truck or large van to take the Aniplant spay/neuter clinic on the road and a small animal ventilator.  If you, or anyone you know can help with those items, please contact me.

Aniplant lobby
The reception area of Aniplant, located at 128 Principe near Hospital in Centro Havana.
Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans dog teeth
Aniplant veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans the teeth of a sedated Beagle in Havana, Cuba.
cat awaits surgery at Aniplant
A cat has been sedated and cleaned by the veterinary technician and awaits surgery at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Training a dog at Aniplant to walk on a leash
Aniplant houses 19 dogs currently up for adoption. These dogs get training–like leash walking and basic commands–from the trainers on staff at Aniplant, in Havana, Cuba.
Disposable surgical gloves washed and drying in a window
Disposable surgical gloves are washed and dried for re-use at Aniplant. Medical supplies are precious and nothing is wasted.  Havana, Cuba.
Potential adopters visit Aniplant dogs
The dogs at Aniplant are available for adoption. Guests are allowed to visit with the dogs and encouraged to apply for an adoption.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog rests in a built-in space in Aniplant kitchen
Aniplant moved into their space about 5 years ago. Renovations included building cave-like spaces for the dogs in the kitchen. Havana, Cuba.
Man carries a dog in for veterinary care
A man brings a Husky in to the Aniplant lobby for veterinary care. Aniplant is open 6 days a week for veterinary services, workshops and the sale of fresh meat for animal food.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in a bathtub at Aniplant
This sweet face was always the first to greet me…and anyone else at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in shopping cart awaits care at Aniplant
This dog had been hit by a car and was carried into Aniplant in a shopping cart for follow up care.  Havana, Cuba.
Cuba Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages
Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages while waiting for the clinic to open in Havana Cuba.
Nora Garcia Pérez with Carol Fletcher
Founder of Aniplant, Nora Garcia Pérez (left), and Carol Fletcher following our interview.  Havana, Cuba 3/13/15.

14 Responses

  1. Wonderful article! Thank you!
    We ship Clinic supplies that are donated to Dra Gladis y Dr Yohanky at Aniplant-Varadero monthly.
    You can find the following on fb:
    Aniplant-Varadero
    Gladis Corria Ochoa
    I have invited you to our Group..Stray Dogs and Cats in Varadero.

  2. An outstanding and comprehensive article about an exemplary animal welfare mission! Congratulations and appreciation for the extraordinary service of Aniplant!

  3. Great article and photos… Just wanted to say that the little dog, Havvi, that is in between you and Nora in the last photo is now home with us in the UK. It was a long and at times difficult process but it has been worth everything, he is such a wonderful loving dog and is very happy now. Nora and her team are amazing and without them it would never have been possible so I will be forever grateful.

    1. I am happy to hear about Havvi; he is such a loving and curious little guy. Nora and the team at Aniplant are indeed amazing. And thank you so much for all your efforts to get him safely to you! I’m sure he is delighted!

  4. If you are interested in helping Aniplant, they are raising money for a mobile spay/neuter clinic. An anonymous donor contributed $11,000. They are now seeking the remaining $10,000 needed to purchase a used van. If you can help with a few dollars (or more!), please visit http://www.gofundme.com/tmx4nk EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS! Thanks everyone!

    1. This is on-hold for now. The U.S. embargo is preventing shipment of a van to Cuba. The Aniplant Project in Florida has emailed me that they will be returning donations received on Gofundme and earmarked for the van. Thanks again to everyone who donated.

  5. This morning, the Aniplant Project in Florida made a very hard decision to return go-fund-me donations for a mobile spay/neuter van for Havana’s Aniplant. While many generous people came through–raising enough to buy a van, there are many embargo regulations and restrictions that are preventing the Florida team from shipping a van to Cuba. Thank you all for your support. Please continue to check in with Aniplant ( https://www.theaniplantproject.org/HOW_YOU_CAN_HELP_29ND.html ). While the dream of a mobile clinic is on hold for now, they have many other needs. Thanks again. Carol

  6. Can you please email me? The founder of aniplant, nora garcia is my moms (now deceased) cousin. I had gotten in touch with her years ago through email and we lost touch and have not been able to get in contact with her since. Would you please email me her mailing address or email? Or would you forward her my email address? Thank you in advance.

  7. I just wish I had thought to look and see if such an organisation existed before I went to Cuba. Could somewhere from this organisation please contact me on the email below

  8. this is awesome. I am hoping to go to Havana at the end of March and would like to volenteer a few days of labor if possible/needed. Is there any way you could provide me with helpful contacts that might assist me with this request?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Michael, Thanks so much for reading my blog and for the offer to help! I’m now part of The Aniplant Project (TAP) organization. I believe you have already contacted TAP? You can find out more about Aniplant, and TAP which helps Aniplant in Cuba, at TheAniplantProject.org. The email address is TheAniplantProject@comcast.net. Please email your exact travel plans, and when you’ll be at Aniplant in Havana. Also let us know if you will need a translator when you’re there.
      Thank you!
      Carol

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