Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Defensa Animal de Rincon

Each Friday, Ovation Riding teams up with Horse Nation to spotlight an individual or organization doing great work in the horse industry. Today, we recognize Defensa Animal de Rincon, a Puerto Rico-based animal rescue.

Defensa Animal de Rincon's free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

Defensa Animal de Rincon’s free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

Defensa Animal de Rincon is a Puerto Rico-based non profit whose mission statement includes:

  • I​ncrease sterilization rates among​ ​cats and dogs ​in all of Puerto Rico
  • ​L​ower the number ​of all animal species that are injured, un-owned or neglected ​in​ all of​ Puerto Rico
  • Improve the lives​ of all animal species ​through ​education, awareness​, social media​ and ​financial ​assistance​ for rescuing​​ in all of Puerto Rico​

We spoke with Cynthia Calvin of Defensa Animal de Rincon to learn more.

HN: How did Defensa Animal de Rincon get started?

Defensa was started because of the situation in Puerto Rico. The government does not offer any help. The tourism association does not offer any help. There are no n0-kill shelters for animals. By simply driving around the island you will witness the need. There was an excellent documentary done, showing the intense conditions for the dogs of Puerto Rico. We invite you to educate yourself on these conditions by viewing the documentary 100,000.  The documentary is a few years old but the situation has not changed.​

For horses you just need to drive around Puerto Rico to see the many horses kept on ropes. We welcome a documentary on the horses of Puerto Rico, the beautiful and resilient Paso Fino breed, as well as other horse breeds. Puerto Ricans love horses and have regular party rides with their friends and their horses.  The rope itself is not the problem — the problem is the horses on ropes which are left for days with no food or water. Not all horse owners do this. Puerto Rico, just like anywhere else, has both educated and caring horse owners as well as uneducated and uncaring horse owners. The goal of Defensa is to educate, inspire and help people care for the horses in need in Puerto Rico.

HN: What kinds of cases are you working with?

​Defensa can only “rescue” a horse that is owner or police surrendered. There are laws for the protection of animals (Law 154) but for horses it is much more difficult to get the police to force the surrender of a neglected/in-need horse. Defensa does work with the police to address horses in need that are reported and owned, but the process can be stopped if the owner rejects the interference, even if abuse or neglect is obvious. Defensa does take in stray horses but they are few and far between because horses have financial value no matter what their health.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

HN: What is your rehabilitation/adoption process?

For cats, dogs, pigs, birds, etc. ​Defensa utilize​s​ fosters. For horse rescue ​Defensa utilize​s​ donated land​ & volunteers​.  Once healthy all our animals are FREE to GREAT homes with rescuer’s approval.​ We do not require adoption fees because we do not see the logic in it. Many people have money to donate but no room in their homes for more animals. While others have the ability to rescue an animal from the streets but do not have the financial resources to help that animal. In our experience, money is easier to find than great homes for the many street animals of Puerto Rico. We also find people will make a donation after adoption if they are financially able.

​Defensa is fortunate to have in two pieces of donated land where horses can roam freely while waiting to be adopted.    Unfortunately Rincon itself is more of an isolated small town and home-call vet care is difficult to get. But there are many educated horse professional who help with ​rehabilitation. The horses we rescue normally just need some food, water, farrier work and simple medicines to address skin or worm issues. Some of our rescues have needed professional vet services — minor surgeries for cuts or avulsion injuries and in those situations we wait for vets or use vet techs or local “cowboys.” Defensa also covers costs to put horses down when found fatally injured. Because of the common practice of horses on ropes, it happens they get loose and hit by cars.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin.

HN: Can you describe your facility, staffing and volunteers?

​We have no formal facility. We consider ourselves a virtual rescue group for all animals with the exception of the horses, which we utilize donated land in our town. The donated horse land is from two different families and consists of:

  • Eight-acre parcel of land with a stream, completely fenced with barbwire and plenty of shade — can accommodate three horses without hay required but is in need of clearing to enable more grass to grow. With donations we’d like to make this land better for horses by clearing.
  • Four-acre parcel of land with water from local neighbors, completely fenced with barbwire and plenty of shade — can accommodate two horses without hay required. This land is the full time home for Papi (the lame Defensa rescued horse) and Dieguito, a local horse purchased for $300 by a Defensa Board Member and that is used in our Free Horse Class.
  • Half-acre parcel of land with water from local neighbors, completely fenced with barbwire and plenty of share — can accommodate one horse with hay required.  With donations we’d like to make this land better for horses by more clearing and creating a dry area for hay feeding.

HN: How are you funded? Please feel free to share any upcoming fundraisers.

We are funded completely by individual/public donations​. We utilize very successfully PoundWishes for our most in-need cat and dog rescues. But unfortunately PoundWishes does not support horse rescues. For horses we depend on Facebook and our followers who share our newsletters and rescue stories. We do have local businesses that hold fundraising events but we have found online fundraising to be much more successful. In a live event, at a local restaurant for example with raffles and silent auctions, live music and artisans we can raise (hopefully) approx $800 to $1000. With PoundWishes we can raise that same amount in a day or two via their network of followers and their emails/social media work. With live events you can not hold them regularly because our community is small and one event can “tap out” all the people who support and donate their time, money & services. With online fundraising those limitations do not exists and you reach many many more people.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Morgan Rae.

Free Horse Class. Photo by Morgan Rae.

HN: What is one thing you wish people know about your work?

We are proud of our:

1. Financial numbers, which we post every month on our website and on a Facebook post, showing our supporters where our money is going. The breakdown is:

  • 70% to vet services
  • 2% to overhead/business expenses/professional services/banking
  • 1% to advertising/marketing
  • 15% to animal adoption travel/airfare/crates
  • 12% to horse rescue

2. Success in rescuing some of the worst animal cases on the island. As long as we have funds in the bank we do NOT turn rescuers down no matter how horrible the situation. We will put an animal down if vet recommended, but we will not leave an animal on the street to suffer and reproduce alone. Some of our most extreme rescues are documented on our website page Sponsor Club and on our Facebook album “Happy Endings.”

3. Support for other rescue groups. Our experience in the rescue work has been many individuals and groups don’t support what each other does. They seem to see the work as a competition: although they may say “it is all about the animals” their actions show it is not. Defensa always supports other groups and rescues — as demonstrated when contacted by CCN to do an article on our work we invited other groups to participate, and as demonstrated when other groups ask for financial support with extreme rescue cases.

4. Creation and execution of a Free Horse Class in our community. Although we are not “equestrians” we are horse owners and we felt by teaching more people to interact with and care for horses they would be in a better position to help a horse on a rope'(as horses do get tangled when on ropes) and to adopt/rescue/report a horse in need. The class has been a huge success and practices  “natural horsemanship” styles — no whipping or hitting​.   ​

5​. Being recognized by Great Non Profits as a Top Rated Non Profit for the last two years (2015 and 2016). Defensa was formed in 2014.  We are also one of only two Top Rated Non Profits on the island of Puerto Rico at the moment.

Photo by Cynthia Calvin

Free Horse Class. Photo by Cynthia Calvin

To learn more about Defensa Animal de Rincon, please visit the organization’s website. You can also follow them on Facebook for more updates.

If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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