Alana Matos , WOMEN@FORBES
December 27, 2017
A man embraces his dog after the passing of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico.
The citizens of Puerto Rico have recently been faced with a myriad of trials following the passing of Hurricane María. One of the greatest, most unspoken challenges is the fact that thousands of animals have been left abandoned across the island. Many people were forced to flee after the storm, and as a result, left their pets behind. Local organizations have been working to tackle this issue and have been fighting to provide shelters the resources they need to house these pets.
PetFriendly is one of these organizations. It is the only organization in Puerto Rico dedicated to promoting a pet-friendly culture among businesses, commercial spaces, and residential spaces. Their website maps out every pet-friendly place in a particular area, and businesses that take on the “pet-friendly” status receive a sticker to place on the front window of their establishment. Since the passing of Hurricane María, they have been tirelessly working to support animal shelters.
Sylvie Bedrosian first started this organization as a response to her own love for animals, and the love she saw many people have for their pets. In particular, she found that there was a vast need in knowing what places accept pets in Puerto Rico since there is no law that gives businesses guidelines as to how to certify their establishment as pet-friendly.
“People really responded to this idea because they were tired of getting kicked out of places or leaving their pets outside. Many people consider their pets family, either because they don’t have children or they do and want a big happy family– which can include their pet. Tourists also want to travel with their pets. So through this business, we’ve reached a verbal agreement with the government to create guidelines for businesses and certify them."
Sylvie Bedrosian and César Millán during one of the Dame Una Patita brigades.
Bedrosian’s journey to starting this organization was certainly unconventional. A few years ago, she found herself having to move back to Puerto Rico to take care of her sick grandparents. She had spent the last nine years in New York but had no ties there. Once she got to the island, she decided to get her first dog to have something warm and happy to come home to.
“I needed to have a reason to go home. It was such a sad environment, so having my dog really helped. But still, I felt like I needed to be distracted and get involved with different groups. I decided at that time to get involved with the organization Save A Sato, which is a no-kill shelter in Puerto Rico. Volunteering there changed my life. Stepping into that shelter– there is no way it doesn’t move you. It opened my eyes to a different world, and it gave me purpose.”
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