By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / Director: Rich Cordero
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: Alberto Falcone
Glen Venezio moved to Puerto Rico eleven years ago and was instantly struck by the hundreds of strays littering the streets, so he has spent the last ten years caring for them.
Using donations from fellow animal lovers and his own money, he gets up at 10pm every night and spends two to three hours preparing food and water for his route around Santurce, Puerto Rico. He finishes between 5 and 7am every day.
He said: “I don’t wanna do it, but it’s me against the world because I’m doing something that almost no-one in this area supports or wants.
“I started to see, when I first moved here, that the streets are full of dogs and cats in various states of suffering; they’re starving, they’re hurt, people are cruel to them. I started, little by little, feeding them.”
Venezio also feeds stray dogs and chickens in the area but, as cats are the largest population in the area, he focuses his efforts on the felines.
Glen said: “I have also helped to spay and neuter over 100 animals, some friends have also helped bring some more to be sterilised on my behalf.
“There are always more to do, because people frequently abandon more - litters of kittens, adults cats and dogs. I spay more as I can based on donations, because I cannot afford to do all of this on my own.”
The passionate American has also assisted the Puerto Rico State Police in several animal cruelty cases.
He said: “To see prosecutions for animal cruelty is a fairly recent phenomenon in Puerto Rico, but the system is slowly learning how to prosecute these type of cases.
“It is an issue of interest - in the past there was little interest in prosecuting animal cruelty here, and little interested in trying to cause change for the animals that suffer in the street.
“The culture in general is not so fond of cats, they are in many ways seen as the lowest of the low here, so that is another part of my motivation for wanting to help them.
“Dogs suffer greatly here in the street as well, but there are many people doing the best they can to rescue more dogs, little by little.”
Although Glen is unwavering in his mission to help the cats, he has faced increasing animosity from locals, so he is now escorted by a local police officer every night.
Venezio spends approximately 60 to 70 US dollars each night on food costs alone, so he relies heavily on donations to feed the cats.
He said: “I’m dealing with huge amounts of animals and I’m one person with very little resources or funding. I can’t wave a magic wand and fix this entire situation here, but I’ve done the best I can.”
While some might judge Glen’s mission to be insurmountable, he knows he will never turn his back on the hundreds of cats he has come to care for every night.
“Once you open your eyes, you can’t close them because I would continue coming out of my door everyday and seeing the animals in the street. Once your heart opens or your eyes open - I’m not willing to close them again.
“That’s why most of the population of this island can live with this suffering that’s all around them, because they’ve learnt to close their eyes.
“I don’t want to be someone who closes their eyes, I want to do this with my eyes wide open. To be a model for compassion - that’s why I do what I do.”