For years, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has been a second home to customer Jill Goldstein and her family, their annual beach-side escape from the winters back home in Minneapolis. But last year Ms. Goldstein noticed something in her adopted city that troubled her – a significant increase in the abuse of the stray cats who live on Cuale Island in the heart of Puerto Vallarta.
"The island has been a dumping ground for the past 20 or 30 years, and people abandon their cats and dogs there," Ms. Goldstein said. "And some of the things that were happening to them are just too terrible to talk about. Recently, many of them were even poisoned."
Heartbroken, Ms. Goldstein, who is the founder and executive director of Pause 4 Paws, a Minneapolis-based animal charity, knew that she had to do something. With the help of Puro Gato, a shelter in Puerto Vallarta, she decided to transport as many of the cats as she could to Minneapolis with the goal of finding homes for them. The mission was dubbed "Gotta Getta Gato," but the logistics proved to be a challenge.
After speaking with other carriers and forwarders who were unable to help them, Ms. Goldstein's mother and father, Nancy and David, got in touch with United in Mexico. Fortunately, we had just the right solution for them – our PetSafe program, which is specially designed for just such movements.
Since March 1, a team of cargo and sales employees, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, has not only worked to secure space on board our aircraft for 60 cats, they have gone above and beyond to ensure that the feline passengers enjoy a comfortable journey, much to Ms. Goldstein's relief.
"Recently, some of the cats had to stay overnight in Houston before they could board a flight to Minneapolis," she said. "The Houston PetSafe employees checked on each one, making sure that they were eating and that they were okay. I was so grateful that they were able to put me at ease."
Operation Gotta Getta Gato is expected to wrap up by April 8, so as not to conflict with Minnesota's kitten season, when the local shelters will fill up. By that time, it's expected that we will have flown a total of 74 cats from Puerto Vallarta to Minnesota, where Pause 4 Paws partner Angel of Hope Rescue is providing veterinary care and adoption services.
"Your airline made this possible," Ms. Goldstein said. "It's my hope that, in a year from now, we can do this again."
For more information on Gotta Getta Gato and to donate to the ongoing project, please visit the Pause 4 Paws site.
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If you would like to donate directly to the non-profits in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, here are some suggestions you may want to consider to help our local communities in this time of greatest need.