boston dog photographer

Because every dog has a  tale

Because every dog has a  tale

Playa Animal Rescue


When Playa Animal Rescue opened in early 2012, the Playa Del Carmen stray dog crisis could not have been more desperate. The local community had lost trust with one of its struggling area rescues, putting a strain on the critical resources they needed to operate.

In fact, one of the major Playa rescues was forced to close without an exit plan due to the rift, leaving 97 dogs suddenly without shelter or healthcare.

Enter Erik and Jan in October 2011, would-be retirees and complete newbies to building or running a dog shelter. They, along with a group of concerned supporters, sprang into action to save the evicted strays.

First, the group launched a non-profit organization. Then, in collaboration with several other like minded individuals, they quickly formulated a feasible plan that would become the Playa Animal Rescue.

Thanks to a team of bright minds and hard workers, PAR went from a jungle lot to working shelter in less than three months. In addition to building a structure, they had to overcome the daunting issues of quarantine and water flow, as many of the incoming dogs carried contagious, deadly diseases. Again, careful planning and teamwork prevailed to create a safe environment, thereby protecting the dogs not in quarantine.

Eight years later, PAR has overcome countless obstacles and evolved into one of Playa’s most effective rescue shelters. Despite constant funding uncertainties, they house and provide exceptional healthcare to up to 80 dogs at any given time thanks in large part to the services of Dr. Mauricio.


Dr. Mauricio Ramirez Juarez joined the Playa Animal Rescue in August 2012 and currently serves as co-director of the organization.

He is an incredibly compassionate and skilled veterinarian who works tirelessly to provide healthcare for PAR’s dogs.

His work ethic and genuine love for animals has a ripple effect, inspiring and pushing others to emulate his high level of animal care.

“We are most fortunate to have him,” explains Jan. “He’s the star of this show.”

If anything, Dr. Mauricio works too hard at times. During one three-week period he rarely slept while bottle feeding puppies. He’s become so dedicated to his work that colleagues often encourage him to rest and relax more often, which he has rarely done in his 7 years at PAR.

Along with his assistant and brother, Marco, and Mateo the caretaker, Dr. Mauricio has raised PAR to a very high standard animal shelter, and with precious little financial resources.

The rest of the group works hard to provide Dr. Mauricio with the platform he needs to rescue effectively.

Pat is the Social Media Director, Sue has charge of the US tax exemption and banking operation. Craig works at fundraising and Jan works to make sure permits and licenses are up to date, and all Mexican laws are followed. She also handles foreign adoptions and humane partnerships with the organizations receiving PAR dogs.

The star of Playa Animal Rescue will soon purchase a state-of-art gas anesthesia machine thanks to a donation from friend’s of Dogs I Meet. Because of the high cost of medical technology, Dr. Mauricio has been forced to sedate their dogs solely via injections, a method which is far more risky and unpredictable than gas anesthesia.

Dr. Mauricio and his stellar supporting cast are incredibly excited with this game-changing development. The anesthesia machine will greatly improve their healthcare services while cutting costs in the long run. And for a rescue that relies 100% on donations to operate, the funds from Dogs I Meet and other sources will allow PAR to more efficiently and safely rescue dogs from the street that otherwise have virtually no chance at survival.

And that is precisely what drives everyone at PAR.

“Our focus is rescuing dogs in the street that just are simply not going to make it another day,” explains Jan. “Other Playa Del Carmen rescues may focus on different areas, but the more diverse everyone’s mission is, the more animals get served. Every rescue in Playa del Carmen does amazing work. PAR’s mission is to heal, rehabilitate, and find forever homes for their canine residents.”

Once a dog has regained its health, they begin socialization training. The dogs then enter PAR’s “Charm School” program to learn, or re-learn, socialization with humans. This critical component to PAR’s mission relies upon a wide variety of volunteers from all over the world thanks to Playa Del Carmen’s tourist visitors.

On any given weekend during the tourist season, volunteers of different ages, ethnicity, and gender participate in the PAR Charm School to socialize the dogs with as many types of people as possible.

The philosophy is simple and extremely effective: exposure to a mélange of voices and handling skills makes each dog a better companion animal. On any given Saturday, the Charm School has as many as 40 volunteers participating in preparing the former street dogs for new homes.


For their part, Playa Del Carmen rescue dogs are extraordinarily sweet, affectionate, and trusting creatures who want nothing more than to give and receive love regardless of the misery they’ve experienced.

They are smart as well. “Wicked smart,” according to Jan. Their street smarts and charm make them amazing pets when they find their forever home and families.

Where are the forever homes for most PAR rescues?


Funding realities necessitate that Playa Animal Rescue partner with organizations that allow the most cost effective home placement. Sending a dog to Canada costs well over $100, but can be free, due to an agreement between CANDI and Air Transat that allows for a no cost transport of rescue animals. Air Transat even sends the shipping crates back to PAR for re-use!

Comparatively, placing a single dog in the United States costs up to $400 for airfare, while European placement is both prohibitively expensive and unhealthy for the dog in terms of length of travel. So, for the time being, Canada is the obvious choice for PAR dogs once they are ready for their forever homes.

But before a dog goes to Canada, PAR must adhere to specific protocols to ensure that they send out a healthy animal.

“We can’t risk sending a dog to Canada that’s sick where it costs 10 times as much to treat,” Jan explains. Partnering with Canadian rescues means making absolutely certain that Dr. Mauricio and the entire PAR staff are funded and equipped to provide the necessary health care. “If we send them a case of TVT, we potentially just bankrupted them,” — and potentially lost a forever home partner for PAR’s rescued street dogs.


Funding and resource issues are a constant with virtually every animal rescue. Playa Animal Rescue has grasped these issues and adapted to the financial realities with remarkable success in a short time. They do not receive a single peso from the Mexican government. Instead, they rely entirely on donations and utilize social media to spread word-of-mouth around the world.

“From the very first day, our decision was to be completely transparent,” Jan summarizes. “We’d like people to know what it’s like behind the scenes. We’d like people to know when we’re happy and when we’re sad and we like people to know how hard it is, how much work it is. At the same time, we need them to know how fulfilling and joyous it is.”

In less than ten years, Playa Animal Rescue has become a model of today’s animal rescue organization community, juggling extremely limited resources to adapt and evolve for one humane purpose: saving the life of each dog they can and finding them forever homes in a loving, caring environment.

Please help spread awareness of Playa Animal Rescue’s remarkable work by sharing this story with your friends and family. And since every dollar is critical to PAR’s continued success and growth in saving Playa Del Carmen’s street dogs, any donation, regardless of amount, will be greatly appreciated.