Ricardo Pimentel opened his home to about 300 dogs as the dangerous Hurricane Delta closed in on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Not only did he shelter 300 dogs, but dozens of cats were harbored in his son’s room; his daughter’s room served as a refuge for chicks, bunnies and even a hedgehog; a patio became a haven for a flock of sheep. Ricardo said the house smelled terrible but it was worth it as they all survived the storm.
“It doesn’t matter if the house is dirty, it can be cleaned,” he says. “The things they broke can be fixed or bought again, but what’s beautiful is to see them happy, healthy and safe, without wounds and with the possibility of being adopted.”
This all started with an Oct. 6 social media post. Pimentel told friends he had cut branches and boarded up windows at the Tierra de Animales (Land of Animals) shelter he founded nearly a decade ago about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Cancun, where he also lives with his family. He had warned of the upcoming hurricane’s mass power. Concerned that stores might remain shut after the storm, leading to food shortages, he asked for donations.
“If I lived with just 10 or 20 dogs, I wouldn’t worry much, but here we have hundreds of animals and we can’t afford the luxury of not having enough food,” he said.
To keep the animals safe from the impending storm, he moved them inside. It took hours to lead the hundreds of canines indoors by leash. He posted a pic on social media of many, many dogs, crowded together. The post was shared widely on social media and grabbed headlines across the globe. He was unaware the post had gone viral as the hurricane downed trees, knocked out power and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists along the Yucatan Peninsula’s resort-studded coast.
Afterward, he was surprised by the generosity of people from around the world who donated thousands of dollars. It was, he said, perhaps the biggest fundraising moment since he founded Tierra de Animales. And local residents stepped forward to help clean up the damage at the shelter.
Pimentel dropped out of college and spent years fixing motorcycles and adopting stray dogs before fulfilling his childhood dream by starting the shelter in 2011. Today, some 500 animals live on nearly 10 acres (4 hectares) of land. Some Tierra de Animales dogs were rescued from dogfighting rings, or were left unable to stand after being brutally beaten. Over the years, many have been adopted by families in Mexico, Canada and the U.S.
He said,“We would like to think that thanks to all this attention, somebody would like to be part of the story and say: ‘I adopted a dog saved from that famous Hurricane Delta.’”