May 25, 2011
Sociedad Protectora de Animales de Medellin (SPA Medellin)
Founded in 1917, the Sociedad Protectora de Animales de Medellin (SPA Medellin) is still today the leading animal welfare organization in Colombia. Throughout the years, SPA Medellin has worked on various campaigns, from anti-bullfighting to rabies control, lobbying for better treatment of farm animals in slaughterhouses and the elimination of VTAs (Animal Traction Vehicles—ATVs)  from city streets.
In 1989, the Vallejo family took over management of the organization. Natalia Vallejo, one of Nora and Anibal’s children, reminisces, “Back then, I was a young girl and I remember my parents receiving calls at 3 am and having to leave the house, in their own car, to attend to the wounded animals people reported seeing on the streets.” Natalia’s family guided the organization through some of the most difficult times in Medellin, when the drug cartels and the police would engage in violent conflicts, shooting horses and dogs who mistakenly crossed the path of fire. Natalia’s father Anibal tells the tale of venturing into war zones to tend to gun wounds inflicted on animals or to humanely euthanize the ones who were in agonizing pain.
The perseverance of a family has led this organization to important triumphs: Medellin is almost 100 percent free of stray dogs and has banned the circulation of Animal Traction Vehicles within city limits. The SPA companion animal veterinary clinic continues to offer low-cost spay/neuter to the community, but the city has now accepted full responsibility for the management of humane programs that help curb the overpopulation of strays, such as spay/neuter, education and adoption drives. After many years of lobbying for stronger anti-cruelty laws, educating the community about the importance of spay/neuter and responsible guardianship, and working with the press to render the local government accountable for the city’s then-overwhelming stray overpopulation and ATV cruelty, the Vallejo family is now broadening their efforts related to farm animals and hoarding, where they will be once again pioneers within their society.
HSI is proud to support the efforts of a local organization that has led the fight for animal welfare for nearly a century.
SPA Medellin was granted HSI’s Animal Advocate Award in 2011.
1. ATVs are sleds or wheeled vehicles pulled by a single horse. ATVs drive around cities in Colombia carrying loads heavier than the weight a horse can safely carry, circulating at all hours of the day, including in peak traffic. Many of the horses used for this purpose are rented and therefore can be working around the clock with no break. Most receive no veterinary care and no proper food or potable water. These horses suffer lacerations, most prominent in the areas where the harness is pulling non-stop against their skin. Some horses are worked to death, collapsing of exhaustion in the middle of busy streets. ATVs in the city are used by low-income individuals who contract with corporations to clean debris from construction sites, transport recycling, and accomplish other tasks. Such vehicles are not regulated by the authorities, who too often turn a blind eye to the cruelty inflicted upon these animals.