Founder and Executive Director, Neva Kaya (@sandandtan), grew up a free-range child in Rincon, Puerto Rico…now a popular tourist destination thanks to its stellar surfing and affordability. Neva’s Serbian mother was one of the early dog rescuers in Rincon responsible for ridding the streets of strays by sending them home with dog-loving tourists.
Neva volunteered for Candi International, within which time the organization successfully cleaned up Cancun, Mexico, of strays through mass sterilization clinics - the same approach Neva has focused on for The Puerto Dog Fund’s mission to end the overpopulation of stray, abandoned and abused dogs on the island.
Neva spends most of the year in Los Angeles working as an actress/model while her remaining time is spent in Rincon saving dogs and running a successful small business, The Bikinibus (@thebikinibus).
Nearly going broke helping the heartbreaking number of dumped, tortured and homeless dogs in Puerto Rico, Neva decided to start The Puerto Rico Dog Fund to develop awareness for the dog epidemic in Puerto Rico and work to end the crisis with the help of rescues and supporters around the world.
If Neva had her way she’d rescue and surf more and work less. In the meantime she shares her life with her boyfriend and his rescued husky, Coco, and her speckled, no-nonsense pit bull named Cheeseburger, who she plucked off the streets of LA when he was a wee puppy.
Co-founder Cindy Lewellen is new to the rescue world but not new to recognizing that the only solution to ending the millions of dogs being euthanized every year in shelters in the US is through spay and neuter. In fact, when Cindy was young she recalls always answering the question “if you didn’t have to worry about a job or money what would you do?” with “I’d own a mobile spay and neuter van and travel the world sterilizing dogs.”
Fast forward many years later and Cindy met Neva when Neva put a call out on social media for someone in Portland, Oregon—where Cindy resides--to help find a foster for a pit bull from Puerto Rico that had been adopted by a young woman in Portland who quickly realized she wasn’t equipped to care for a dog so was putting sweet Romeo on a plane back to Puerto Rico.
Neva’s plea for help made its way to Cindy through the woman who fostered Cindy’s rescue pit bull and the rest is history. The amazing human who originally fostered Romeo is now his forever human and a huge supporter and friend of The Puerto Rico Dog Fund and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Cindy never left her advertising career to return to university for another degree so joining Neva in her mission to end the overpopulation of stray and unwanted dogs in Puerto Rico was the next best thing. That was further confirmed for Cindy after two visits to the island to see the horrific conditions for dogs down there first-hand.
Cindy lives in Portland and Bend, Oregon, and works for a company in Silicon Valley named after a fruit. She’s mom to a high-energy ginger pit bull named Noodle, who was rescued from being tied to a beam in the basement of an abandoned house in Kansas City, Missouri, in the dead of winter, without food or water.
Obviously all ended well for Cheeseburger and Noodle. Neva and Cindy want the same happy endings for all the stray, unwanted and abandoned dogs in Puerto Rico.