Animal Fair Goes to the Amazon
Peruvian Warrior Fights Animal Abuse
Imagine having a job, security and everything planned and then you give that up to devote yourself to a cause that truly “calls out to you.” What if that calling had to do with animals? Would it seem a bit more tempting?
Molly Mednikow is the Founder and Executive Director of Amazon CARES. She answered the call of the wild, so to speak, as when she decided to move to Peru and start an animal welfare charity. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and divides her time these days between Atlanta, Georgia, and Iquitos, Peru. Mednikow has recently won a landmark dog abuse case she had a hand, and paw, in bringing to justice.
AF: What is Amazon CARES and what made you want to do this as a career?
Molly Mednikow: Amazon CARES stands for Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety. We are the only animal welfare organization for domestic animals in the Amazon region. I was on a volunteer vacation that I took annually to the beautiful Amazon region. I did not realize that this particular trip would mark a turning point in my life, but it did. I was enjoying my time away from my busy career, and I extended my stay in Peru. I did not make a conscious decision to start a charity and move to Peru. Multiple dogs in need found me. For instance, I was eating in a Chinese restaurant and a dog wandered in from the street and came straight to my table! I rescued that dog, and named him “Won Ton.” These animals needed me and I needed them. I rescued them and before I knew it I had rented space for a shelter and the rest fell into place!
AF: You started in 2004 and recently Amazon CARES made international headlines. What exactly occurred for this kind of attention?
MM: In this particular case, Amazon CARES, in partnership with the Iquitos Bar Association, had been working with legislative officials to enforce and strengthen animal cruelty laws. In this case a woman was accused of intentionally poisoning and killing her neighbor’s puppy. Thanks to our partnership with the Iquitos Bar Association, we brought the case to trial. After seven long months, the woman was convicted. This is a legal precedent for all of Peru, and an example for many Third World nations.
AF: What sort of sentence did the guilty party receive?
MM: The 3rd Counsel Magistrates Court ordered Sandra Milagros Padilla Alvis to pay fines of 2,000 Peruvian Nuevo Soles, which will cost her one-fourth of her income for nearly seven months. We are told the woman plans to appeal, making claims of lack of evidence and saying the dog was known to be a malicious biter. If she had taken the case seriously in the first place, perhaps she would have brought this evidence with her to court.
AF: Indeed this is a landmark historic case, so congratulations. What is your background with dogs and why this career path?
MM: I spent much of my childhood on farms surrounded by animals. It seemed like everybody in the county knew they could dump their dog near my uncle’s farm and the dog would be cared for. Growing up I brought home all types of stray animals. An early memory is my Mom telling me that I should open a pet store! My family always rescued dogs, especially older, needy dogs. As an adult I rescued dogs too. Family tradition dictated that I become a jeweler, so I got an MBA and opened a high end jewelry store in Atlanta. The business was successful, thank goodness, as selling it enabled me to start Amazon CARES charity. I thought I’d be in jewelry my entire life, but after participating in volunteer vacations to the Peruvian Amazon, I developed a love for the natural surroundings and the calmer, community based way of life. It is such a cliché but I truly “found myself” there, which is something nobody ever would have expected.
AF: Where can people learn more and contribute to your efforts?
MM: Amazon CARES has a no-kill shelter and adoption program, although its main focus is on trap-neuter-return programs and education efforts. Learn more and get involved by visiting www.amazoncares.com.