Homeless dogs would be lucky to end up in the care of SOS el Arca, but all they want is one human to call their own
If anyone deserves a miracle it is Sylvie Goetz from SOS el Arca dog shelter, and that is what she calls the event that brought a brand new shelter to reality. Sylvie has been rescuing dogs from the city pound and the streets for years. In the beginning her home quickly turned into an animal shelter. Due to the expense and space required to continue helping the dogs, she created SOS el Arca in 2011, a no-kill, non- profit dog shelter in Playa del Carmen. The shelter was a mishmash of tarps and fences and difficult to deal with when the rain came, but she had a vision of what SOS el Arca would be one day. And then it happened, this past summer a tourist from South Africa had grown attached to a street dog in Playa. After finding out Cebiam (the municipal pound) had picked the dog up, she was distraught. She called on many people to help her and finally reached out to Sylvie to rescue the dog from the pound. Sylvie retrieved the dog, as the woman had found a good home for it. The tourist came to Sos el Arca shelter and decided she wanted to help make a better shelter for these dogs. The tourist and her father would return and not only offer 3600 square meters of property but also offered to build a new shelter. The angels from South Africa remain anonymous but what a difference they made in these dogs´ lives! Within a few months, the new shelter was built, made up of 48 large kennels with indoor and outdoor areas. They also have quarantine and infectious recovery kennels, a bathing area, large playgrounds and a swimming pool. The new building contains two apartment suites for visiting student veterinarians and large dog training areas. Soon Sylvia plans to begin therapy training, where dogs will help children with psychological problems. The outside palapa will host events and fundraisers. After all the years Sylvie has been rescuing dogs her dream was that the dogs at SOS would have a safe, dry place to sleep at night. That dream has come true, each kennel has steel doors that close when the storms come, keeping the rain out but also alleviating the fear of thunder and lightening.
The shelter is run on a tight schedule to ensure each dog has daily walks, free play and swimming. Although this project made a huge difference in so many lives, the struggle continues – raising funds to ensure the shelter can help as many dogs as possible. The expenses for a shelter this size are huge, including veterinary bills, medication, medical emergencies, food, cleaning supplies, 16 employees, utilities and maintenance. Some of the cost is offset from Sylvie’s restaurant Byblos. The shelter will have onsite veterinarians to help reduce medical expenses and provide low-cost or free help to those in need. Next step for SOS is mobile medical vans visiting the poorer communities treating and sterilizing animals. She states it is wrong for us to assume every dog needs rescuing. Some people’s living conditions are not much better than their pet, and it is more important to sterilize the animals but not necessarily remove them from a loving family. The primary goal is to make sure the animals in the streets are sterilized and healthy.
On February 18, 126 volunteers participated in painting all the concrete walls of the shelter vibrant Mexican colors. It was a fantastic day of locals and expats gathering together to turn this shelter into a bright, happy place. The dogs in this shelter are well cared for, and many have been with SOS for years still waiting for a family to adopt them. You may wonder why would a dog want to leave this place? They have a swimming pool, huge yards, and other dogs to play with but as Sylvie says these dogs just want the love and attention of one special person. They all want to be loved, so they wait and hope for their adoption day.
There are currently 196 dogs at the shelter, if you wish to make monetary donation, medical supplies or food donation, volunteer to walk or bath dogs, or if you are looking for a new family member and want to adopt, please contact Facebook/SOS el Arca.