April 27, 2009
Lilian Schnog: Working for Animals in Costa Rica
Lilian's parents were refugee Jews who fled to Curaçao, where Lilian was born in 1947. She lived there until she was 16 years old, and then moved to Holland to study dermatology. Lilian returned to Curaçao two years later.
An activist from the start
Lilian has been a rescuer of animals all her life. They sensed her good intentions, always following her home. At one time, there were 15 cats living with her family, who were always very comfortable with lots of animals around. There were always more pets then humans living in her house, growing up.
Lilian married a Dutch man named Ben Nagtegaal when she was 21 years old and returned to Holland with him while he studied law. After his studies they moved to Aruba, where Ben established his law practice and Lilian continued to aid animals in need.
She began working with an American woman who was helping strays on the streets. They started organizing their own small sterilization project, and that's where Lilian got her idea for a sterilization clinic and a shelter.
Later, after years of living in in Aruba, Ben and Lilian decided to move to Costa Rica to raise their son Michael there. They bought property that happened to be near an animal shelter which, at the time, was poorly operated and in great need of financial assistance and hands-on assistance. Lilian started there as a volunteer in the late 1980's, helping the animals and familiarizing herself with the shelter business. She could see that a lot of things needed to be changed.
Realizing a dream
In 1991, Lilian bought this shelter and established Asociación Humanitaria Para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica (AHPPA), an HSI Animal Advocate. The board of directors was picked and the transition began.
At the time, there existed only a leaky surgical room and a few pet carriers to hold dogs for adoption. But with the help from HSI, Lilian had the support and the knowledge she needed.
In the early 1990's, Costa Rican authorities were attempting to control the the stray dog population using poison. Lilian convinced officials to bring the stray dogs to the shelter where she could treat them and adopt them out, rather than kill them. It was a win-win situation and Lilian became well known by local officials. AHPPA is the only legal animal shelter operating in Costa Rica.
Continuing the mission
AHPPA now has a state-of-the-art surgical room that keep three full-time veterinarians busy seven days a week, with a large-scale sterilization program doing an average of 45 spay/neuters per day. Approximately 1500 animals are adopted out of the shelter each year.
AHPPA has expanded to include an Outreach Program, through which staff visit rural and impoverished areas of Costa Rica to treat animals in need and have embarked on a massive sterilization project.
There is also a school on the premises, where AHPPA offers an Environmental and Animal Welfare Educational Program to teach the children of Costa Rica about the importance of caring for the environment and all the living creatures who inhabit our planet.
HSI is thrilled to present the Award for Extraordinary Commitment and Achievement to Lilian Schnog for her inspiring lifelong dedication to animal welfare.