Colombian woman starts animal rescue nonprofit in Tampa Bay – Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA – Heydi Acuña developed compassion for animals at a young age.
In her native Bogotá, Colombia, she didn’t have much. But her mother, Liliana, taught her to give to those who are less fortunate.
“If there was a dog in the street, we would give him food, ” said Acuña, 30, explaining how common it was to find stray dogs in Bogotá.
When Acuña finished high school, she began studying to be a veterinarian. In her first college semester, her father brought the girl to Tampa, where at 17 the girl worked in a preschool while studying in Hillsborough Community College.
“During my preschool work, I volunteered from the Humane Society and at a shelter, ” Acuña said. “I gained notoriety, and people called me saying, ‘I found a dog, Heidy, what do We do? I found a cat. ’”
Within 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Acuña volunteered with regard to Compassion Kind, an animal group, in order to rescue pets from the island disaster.
For her, the moment was pivotal.
She started the Mercy Full Project , a Tampa Bay nonprofit that rescues animals. Her husband, Nashwan Bandayan, gave her the car to start the effort.
“Initially I actually worked in my house garage rescuing dogs. We installed AC units and had about 20 dogs, ” said Acuña, who quickly began looking for a new location.
When the pandemic arrived, every day the lady saw an alarming number of abandoned animals.
“Many canines lost their owners to COVID. It was crazy, ” Acuña stated. “I started just before the outbreak, and then dog abandonment exploded. While owners died within hospitals, creatures died associated with hunger in their houses. It was terrible. ”
In Mercy Full Project’s first year, Acuña rescued 300 dogs. Then 400. From 2021 to date, more than 800 rescues plus adoptions possess occurred, she said.
The increase within abandoned animals is shocking. A University of Florida study from June 2022 revealed that Florida’s pet shelters struggled to hang on to years of progress during the particular COVID-19 pandemic.
Shelter admissions increased by 11%, or more than 36, 000 cats and dogs in 2021, according to the study. Euthanasia of cats increased for the first time since the UF College of Veterinary Medicine started reporting statewide data within 2013, the particular study says.
According in order to the Gentle Society Tampa Bay, in 2020 they took within 10, 420 animals. In 2021, it had a good intake increase of 27%. The group stayed open throughout the outbreak when others shelters closed.
Acuña mentioned pet abandonment continues rising.
“They throw them away, skin plus bones. Dogs that come with snouts tied, pet cats that bounce from car windows, ” Acuña said.
According to Acuña, economic inflation has contributed in order to a dramatic increase in abandoned canines.
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“When things start to go down, the first 1 out the particular door is the dog or even cat, ” she stated. “People can’t throw away a sick relative. ”
One pet that Whim Full preserved during the pandemic is immortalized in a mural at the Mercy Full headquarters. A local artist painted the superhero canine phrase, “We rescue pets. What is your Super Power? ”
Acuña has twenty to 60 volunteers who breath life into Whim Full. Many help simply by fostering potential adoptable animals, some by cleaning, other people at adoption events.
The particular rescue need is increasing, and now she needs a van to transport the rescued animals.
“This is a passageway, not a shelter. I am against keeping them in cages, ” mentioned Acuña, that developed rules to adopt domestic pets. She sometimes prefers a new owner first join the foster-to-adopt program. ”
“That way I know if new parents are responsible… they must send photos so I know how the animals are. Approximately 99%, everything goes well, ” said Acuña.
Ami Gohil, the volunteer, came to Mercy Full Project over a year ago.
Gohil, 47, met Acuña when Gohil decided in order to adopt a dog initially in the girl life. The lucky one was Pepita, a chihuahua and dachshund mix.
“She was my first dog, and she’s perfect regarding us. I love her, ” stated Gohil. “She had bad heartworms, and it’s better…. Pepita is only 4 1/2 years old. She’s too young to die. ”
Want to volunteer?
A fundraiser will be held at 12 p. m. Oct. 15 at 901 N. Fremont Ave., Tampa. The event celebrates the third anniversary of animal rescue. They will have got music, meals, dogs plus cats intended for adoption. For more information, visit Mercyfullprojetcs. org .