Kingsport woman collecting supplies to help stray animals in Cuba

Holly Viers • Jan 27, 2019 at 2:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Penny Salyer has always had a passion for helping animals.

So when she observed firsthand the many malnourished stray dogs and cats that roam the streets of Havana, Cuba, she knew she had to do something.

That’s one reason why Salyer is returning to Cuba later this year, taking supplies such as flea and tick prevention and other medicines for the animals. She’s also encouraging the community to make monetary donations to TAP Animal Project, which seeks to eliminate the suffering of Cuban animals through mass sterilization and promotion of veterinary care.

“The innocent animals are the ones that are often overlooked, and that’s where my heart is,” Salyer said. “I was just touched by what I saw to the point that I investigated, ‘How can I help?’”

Making the trip

Salyer, along with her husband and son, visited Cuba for the first time in October 2017 as part of a Carnival cruise. Salyer said she was intrigued by Cuba because not many Americans had visited there due to travel restrictions.

Though the architecture and landscapes were striking, Salyer said the stray animals stuck with her most. Salyer said she observed up to 10 stray animals on any given street, which she described as a “heart-breaking” sight.

“I was just struck by the animals,” Salyer said. “There are street animals everywhere, and of course, all the people don’t have enough to eat, much less the animals.”

Coming home

Once she returned home, Salyer started looking for ways to help. She came across TAP Animal Project, which supports groups that provide on-the-scene assistance to animals in Cuba.

While Cuba does have veterinarians, Salyer said they only make the equivalent of $300 a year, and supplies are often in short supply, especially considering the large number of strays that need help.

“Even our homeless animals don’t compare to the direness of the situation down there,” Salyer said.

Going back

Salyer and her husband will return to Cuba on a World Caribbean cruise in the summer. She plans to take pipettes of flea and tick prevention, along with other medications such as antibiotics.

She also hopes to take a few collars and packs of rubber gloves, as many Cuban veterinarians currently wash and reuse their gloves to make them last.

How to help

While she is limited on how many items she can take due to cruise restrictions, Salyer is accepting some donations, mainly of flea and tick prevention and other small items, to take to Cuba on her next trip. Those who would like to make a donation can reach Salyer at [email protected]

Monetary donations can also be made to TAP Animal Project at TAPanimalproject.org.

“I help animals here, too,” Salyer said, “but just the extreme circumstances of the country and the fact that the people themselves are so impoverished that they can’t help their own is what led me to want to do something.”