When we decided to start Ni|BEACHWEAR we had two things clear, everything would be made in Puerto Rico, and we wanted to help Puerto Rico’s homeless animals. We decided that this would be part of our DNA, to donate part of the proceeds from every sale to helping reduce (hopefully, one day end) the homeless animal situation of the island. Ni|BEACHWEAR teamed up with Colitas Sonrientes Inc., an organization that rescues, feeds, provides veterinary care, finds forever homes for animals and educates the public on animal welfare. Here, we interview Arleen Muñiz, founder of Colitas Sonrientes Inc. and get to know her better.
Arleen Muñiz was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and currently resides there. She grew up with 21 dogs, which were her closest friends, especially one which she named Cenizo, whom she still misses.
How and when did Colitas Sonrientes Inc. start?
Colitas Sonrientes Inc. officially started February 9th, 2013, but I had been doing this for a very long time. I decided to formalize the organization in order to be able to help and put my grain of sand in masses.
How do you describe Colitas Sonrientes Inc. and what you do?
I describe Colitas Sonrientes as my therapy, my second soul. We rescue cats and dogs that live in indifference, abuse, and neglect. With the program “Apadrina una ruta” we provide independent rescuers with food and other necessary materials to care for animals on their route. With “Colitas Educa” we give educational talks about animal welfare at schools, churches, prisons, and other places. “Colitas Saludables” is our program to educate the public in regards to the care we must give our cats and dogs.
What was your first milestone you reached as an organization?
We were able to recollect 15 thousand pounds of food in one day. We’ve also received a number of acknowledgements * see list of acknowledgements at end*
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is ensuring we comply with local and federal regulations to maintain the organization’s legal structure. Realizing happy endings, where our dogs and cats are fully healthy and have been adopted by a family, and literally, wagging their tails.
What have been some of the happiest moments of Colitas Sonrientes?
The happiest moments are when you see the transition from a newly rescued animal, who's fearful, to one that's completely rehabilitated, and trust humans once again. That’s our biggest satisfaction.
What do you believe is the best tool to help end/reduce the homeless animal population in Puerto Rico?
The best tools to prevent the number of animals on the street is to spay/neuter, and not sponsor the illegal sale of animals on the island.
How can people get involved in helping the homeless animals in Puerto Rico?
Donating to entities that have spay/neuter programs, spreading the message of adopting, and responsibly adopting animals.
What excites you about this generation in terms of animal welfare?
It fills me with hope that this new generation is pro-environment and pro-animals, they know to value and respect nature.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
My biggest inspiration in life has been my daughter (furry daughter), Dolores Esperanza, who was brutally abused and had 30% of her body burned. She was able to overcome the pain, fully recover, and forgive humans.
Whom do you seek advice from?
I seek advice from our accountant, from a business perspective, and from Dr. Sharon Camplit, whom has been our glass of water in our dessert.
What’s next for the organization?
I see Colitas Sonrientes from generation, to generation. I hope that when I no longer have strength, the young will keep the labor and keep giving new opportunities to those that don’t have a voice.
- On August 13, 2013 the board of directors was recognized by the Municipal Legislature of Ponce, for the labor and administration of the organization.
- On September 5, 2014 Colitas Sonrientes was awarded the “Selección Ciudadana” given by the Miranda Foundation.
- On the month of October 2014 the organization, alongside the veterinarian Dr. Héctor Zayas were recognized by the Club Rotario Perla del Sur for their work in Colitas Sonrientes and the care in the case of Dolores Esperanza.
- On December 6th, 2014 Colitas Sonrientes' president and team were recognized by the entity JCI PR (Junior Chamber International).
- At the beginning of 2015 Colitas Sonrientes' president and team were praised by the Mayor of Ponce for their work in defending the voiceless.
- On March 26, 2015 Colitas Sonrientes and Dolores Esperanza were chosen to meet with Dr. Jane Goodall.
- September 18, 2015 marked the second time the organization won the prize for Selección Ciudadana.
- The program Colitas Educa received praise by the Municipality of Ponce on August 20, 2015 for their workshops given to schools, universities and correctional facilities.
- The House of Representatives enacted Motion 6428 on February 20, 2016 congratulating the organization for their extraordinary work in the past years.
Thank you Arleen for answering our questions and for the amazing job Colitas Sonrientes does. You can learn more about Colitas Sonrientes here.
Xo, Ni|BEACHWEAR team