"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our Holiday Giving Blog Series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started in 2010 to draw attention to 12 not-for-profit groups or charitable organizations in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya. So many people from around the world travel to the Riviera Maya during the holiday season. Many reach out to us via regional message boards and Facebook looking for a way to give back to the less fortunate residents in our local communities. 12 Days/12 Ways was started to help these generous, kind-hearted visitors find legitimate and worthy charitable organizations to support, addressing their particular needs for this holiday season.

For each of the 12 days of Christmas, the BuyPlaya blog, better known as "Life's a Beach", will spotlight a charitable organization or giving opportunity. Some may already be familiar to locals and frequent travelers to this area. Others, perhaps those most in need of recognition and support, may be new to our readers. It is our hope to do this every year, with updated information and wish lists.

The "12 Day/12 Ways" list has not yet been completed for 2012. If you have a favorite charity that you feel belongs on this list, collect all of the information you can and I will be happy to consider your group for inclusion.


Tierra de Animales CancunTierra  de Animales sanctuary was founded in March 2011 as a refuge for Cancun's forgotten and abandoned street dogs, known locally as ‘perros callejeros'. Animals rescued by Tierra de Animales from the streets now have a safe place to call home, and a place to heal from the unfortunate circumstances that left them alone and abandoned. The mission of Tierra de Animales is clear....to rescue, rehabilitate, sterilize, socialize and adopt.   Dogs who once had virtually no chance of survival, those that have been injured, abused and those simply abandoned or born on the streets. Now all have a second chance at a better life.  Tierra de Animales rescues dogs from Cancun, surrounding small villages and regularly rescues dogs who are on ‘death row' from the pound in Playa del Carmen.  Many dogs that no one else will help are rescued and rehabilitated by Tierra de Animales.  At TdA, they receive food, medicine, love and the chance to bond and play with other dogs who all share a history of neglect and abandonment. The sanctuary was founded and is operated by Ricardo Pimentel, who lives on the sanctuary property and cares for all of the dogs personally.

Tierra de AnimalesMost visitors to Mexico will immediately notice the large numbers of homeless street dogs and cats.  It is a very challenging problem, one that requires both the immediate rescue of animals in danger and aggressive spay and neuter campaigns to combat the overall situation.  Recently, Tierra de Animales finished construction of their own on-site clinic to help serve the needs of their own dogs and also offer very low cost sterilizations for animals from the surrounding villages.  This vital ongoing service, coupled with sponsoring free temporary sterilization clinics, will truly make a difference in lessening the number of animals on the streets. Already in the past year, TdA was able to organize a 3 day successful spay and neuter campaign in the neighborhood of Bonfil, Cancun, and just this fall another in the small town of Leona Vicario. In the coming year, TdA plans to sponsor and conduct at least three more sterilization clinics to assist the community and animals who are suffering in the streets and having unwanted litters.   TdA has also launched an outreach program this past year to young school children in Cancun.  Regular visits are made to schools with dogs from the sanctuary to teach the children about the responsibility of having a pet, proper care for an animal and to respect animals.   

Tierra de Animales is located on the Cancun-Merida free highway (the ‘old' highway) roughly 25 kilometers west of Cancun, just a few kilometers shy of the small town of Leona Vicario.  It is an area of small ranches, agricultural land and jungle, and the perfect place for the sanctuary to be established and have room to grow in the future. Raw jungle land was purchased here only in March of 2011, and with many hard labored hours has been transformed into what it is today. There is plenty of fenced, wide open area for the dogs to run and play and also outdoor sheltered runs for dogs that need to remain kenneled for awhile for behavioral or medical reasons.  Also, the main building houses a bathing area, food storage and interior kennels for puppies or dogs who have special medical needs.  A separate quarantine building and clinic are now located on-site and provide much needed protected space and kennels for dogs and cats recovering from injuries, operations and for new arrivals.

While the overall area of the sanctuary is large, more work is being done to make room for ongoing needs. An outdoor penned and sheltered area houses new arrivals until they can be medically vetted, while an indoor area house those receiving intensive care and needing isolation. Future plans include building housing for visiting veterinarians seeking training in shelter medicine and for volunteers to stay as well. Plans are also underway soon to design a boarding facility or 'hotel' for pets on the property, so that the sanctuary can offer quality boarding and generate income to help sustain the daily operations and needs of the dogs.

How Can YOU Help?

Donate to Tierra de AnimalesMake a Monetary Donation!
The development of the sanctuary has been a massive undertaking, and Tierra de Animales relies solely on personal donations to operate, construct and feed all of the hungry mouths every day. The sanctuary can receive donations through PAYPAL via the email address ayuda@tierradeanimales.org. The website for the sanctuary, www.tierradeanimales.org  (and also www.helpmexicandogs.com) offers many galleries of photos of the sanctuary, adoptive families and available dogs for adoption.  Donations can be made from the website and monthly sponsorship donations are encouraged and greatly appreciated as the form the backbone of support for the dogs.

Tierra de Animales is currently finalizing its AC charity status in Mexico, and tax-deductible receipts will hopefully be available soon for Mexican citizens. Also, donors from the US can make tax-deductible contributions through the non-profit Lost Dog Foundation, a 501 c3 charity which aids Tierra de Animales and serves animals in need in the Yucatan. (www.lostdogfoundation.org)   

Donate Food and Supplies!
Locally, donations of food and other items are always critically needed:

  • dry dog food (croquetas)
  • canned food for sick or older dogs and puppies
  • canned tuna and raw chicken for sick dogs and dogs with mange
  • anti-flea/tick solutions like Bovitraz/Amitraz and topical treatments
  • heartworm preventative
  • dog shampoo (medicated for mange and regular)
  • large plastic or metal dog feeding bowls, plastic 1 gallon and 5 gallon buckets
  • brooms and pooper scoopers, bleach and disinfectant cleaners, towels and paper towels
  • donations of bags of dog food, or cash donations earmarked for food purchase
  • antibiotics...particularly doxyclycline and amoxicillin, as well as pain medications
  • wound care supplies...topical antibiotic, Veterycin, antiseptics
  • Ivomec (ivermectin) for mange treatment
  • heartworm/erhlichia tests (Snap 3dx or 4dx)
  • plastic travel crates suitable for airline shipping
  • absorbable sutures, (2-0, 3-0) syringes and needles **made bold
  • adjustable nylon collars

Tierra de Animales Dog WashVolunteer!
Volunteers are always welcome at the sanctuary! The dogs LOVE visitors! Saturdays are days when local residents are encouraged to come and help wash the dogs, play with them, help clean kennels and the grounds, and many more projects.  Other days are generally fine for visitation as well, however, please contact the sanctuary before visiting as there is no ‘staff' there, only a staff of one usually!  Additionally there are local events that the sanctuary always needs volunteers' help with. Please get in touch if you can help in this way. Event helpers can contact Elvia at elviatda@hotmail.com. In the US and Canada, volunteers are needed to help establish networks of potential foster and adoptive homes for the rescued dogs. Assistance is needed in fundraising, marketing and general promotion. Please contact Lisa Edwards at helpmexicandogs[at]hotmail.com for more information.

Become a Fan!
Become a fan of Tierra de Animales on Facebook and follow along with all of the developments and see how happy a former street dog can be when given a second chance!  Get in touch today and see how you can help the dogs of Tierra de Animales.

Buy Cool TdA Merchandise!
Tierra de Animales merchandise is also available for purchase: sanctuary t-shirts, street dog t-shirts,  women's tank tops, beverage ‘koozies' and also 2012 calendars, hot off the press! Contact the email above to purchase, or via the Tierra de Animales Facebook page.

With over 230 dogs (and 25 cats!) currently residing on the grounds of the sanctuary, Tierra de Animales is actively seeking loving adoptive families for their dogs. Local adoptions are not enough to handle all of the need, and adoptions to the US, Canada and elsewhere are very much needed. Arrangements can easily be made for transporting adopted dogs to the US and Canada, and dogs can be checked as ‘luggage' on several airlines with just a little notice.  Tierra de Animales can also arrange to ship a dog to you if you choose to adopt. Tierra de Animales works closely with Canadian animal welfare group CANDI International, Pawsitive Match Rescue (Calgary) and Pet Project Rescue (Minneapolis, Minnesota), who all assist in placing dogs in foster and permanent care in Canada and the US. Please consider adopting a great dog from this sanctuary. By adopting a dog and providing a nice home, you also make room for another needy ex-street dog to be rescued by Tierra de Animales.

All adoption, donation and general questions can be sent to Lisa Edwards, the US/Canada and general representative for the sanctuary, at the email address helpmexicandogs[at]hotmail.com or via Facebook.

Tierra de Animales 


Michele Kinnon

I moved to Mexico with my family in 2004 with the hope of offering our children a more global education and world view. Since then, we have traveled through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, gathering friends and life experiences and learning a lot about ourselves along the way. When we are not out and about exploring, Rob and I own and operate BuyPlaya, a Playa del Carmen real estate company and FurnitureMex. "Life's a Beach" is a catch-all blog where you may find anything from restaurant reviews, to recipes, gardening tips, commentary about expat daily life, local events, information about moving to Mexico and educating children in Playa del Carmen. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and .