Who We Are

Our Board of Directors, Honorary Board Members and Medical Consultants

Lisa Anne Ramirez

Gary Gomola

Melissa Harper

Ernesto Alvarez

Dr Mary Holloway

Laura Alcalá

Dr. Ivan Aguilar Garduño

Sharon Morales

Dr. Erika Flores Reynosa

Robert P Ramirez

Diane Telander

Karla Porter

Our Team

Staff & Volunteers

Receptionist, Veterinarians,
Veterinarian Technicians, Volunteers

Anabel Himbernon

General Manager

Lucy Hart

Communications Manager

Lisa Anne Ramirez

Lisa was born in Chicago in 1961 and grew up in El Paso Texas. After living in Houston for 10 years managing some of the city’s finest restaurants, Lisa made the life changing decision to move to Cozumel in 1991. She introduced the island to in-line skating and opened a rental skate business and snack bar. In 1993 she opened Tia Loli’s tamale factory selling her beloved Aunt Loli’s northern Mexico style tamales.

Cozumel did not have a vegetarian restaurant so she decided to do what she knew best and in 1995 she opened the first Rock’n Java Caribbean Cafe with then partner Karla Porter. It was the first fully vegetarian restaurant and bake shop in Cozumel.

This is when Karla approached Lisa about the serious street dog and cat overpopulation on the island and what she could do about it. At that time City Hall was indiscriminately killing animals by throwing out poison hot dogs in the street in the dead of night. Dogs cats possums raccoons and all other endemic species of the island fell victim to this brutal and inhumane practice of animal control. Karla recruited Lisa and with help from their friends and family they opened the first free spay & neuter clinic and education center in all of Latin America.

Rock’n Java has since diversified and is now one of the go to places for the ex pat crowd and loved by all the island locals. Lisa’s daughter Bianca was born in 1997, raised and educated in Mexico, USA (Texas and Florida) & Germany. She currently lives in NYC. Bianca and Lisa have fostered and cared for everything from dogs, cats, cockatoos, toucans, possums, rabbits, coatimundis and even an elephant. Lisa and her life partner Ernesto opened Rock’n Java Thai Noodle Bar & Sushi in 2008 and have both been active in community outreach and education through the Humane Society and the Rotary Club. Lisa’s focus on sterilization, education and keeping animals safe has kept her involved and active in the Cozumel Humane Society where she has served as President since 2011. Almost 3 decades later the Humane Society of Cozumel Island has become a model for other groups started in Baja, Playa del Carmen, Belize, Cancun, Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Honduras.

“If you don’t like what is happening around you then it is up to you to do what is necessary to change things for the better. It helps that I don’t take no for an answer and you’d be surprised how you can move mountains with a little determination and a lot of cooperation. I credit the community of Cozumel for the strides we’ve made and continue to make and I look forward to a brighter future for domestic animals on the island”.

Gary Gomola

Gary is a retired Certified Public Accountant. He met his wife Patricia met in Cozumel 25 years ago on a dive trip and returned to the island on a regular basis.  In 2014 they bought a condo in Cozumel, and now in retirement they live here for nine months per year. During his years as a tax partner in a Connecticut CPA firm he became active, and has served in officer positions, in many non-profit and civic organizations including the United Way, YMCA, Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. He was also on the Board of Directors of Connecticut based Liberty Bank. Gary and Patricia became active with the Humane Society of Cozumel after meeting Ernesto at a Cozumel Rotary Club meeting. They started out by performing dog and cat adoption escort services, and volunteering at spay and neuter clinics. Later Lisa recruited Gary to use his tax and accounting skills, and he now does the contribution receipting and bookkeeping for Friends of the Cozumel Humane Society Inc. (FOTCHS) of which he is currently the corporate secretary. He prepares the annual IRS tax returns and required contribution acknowledgement letters and has become an asset to the Coz HS and FOTCHS.

Melissa Harper

Melissa Harper grew up in Sheridan, Wyoming.  She worked as a financial advisor until returning to college as a non-traditional student where she enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Wyoming while raising three children as a single mother. In 2014 she relocated to the Denver area to work as a commercial business development analyst for an energy transport firm. Her ability to prioritize school tasks while working and raising her children is a testament to Melissa’s drive to better herself and the world around her. After meeting her future husband David, she re-entered the financial industry as a registered investment advisor representative joining his company Cornerstone Financial. Melissa and David were married in May 2016.

In 2020 on one of their many trips to Cozumel Melissa found an abandoned dog living in the jungle. Melissa and Ruffo instantly fell in love and she was ready to take him back to Colorado on the spot. Ruffo was a very ill pup in need of heartworm treatment as well as a myriad of other medications. She and David sought help from the Humane Society of Cozumel Island and together with Lisa Ramirez and foster mom Deb Stein, they began the long road to nursing Ruffo back to health. Once he finally arrived at his new home in Denver, fate again brought the entire family back to the island, this time permanently and full-time. Now fancy Ruffo has his own casa on the playa that he shares with Melissa, David and his canine siblings Max and Breyer.

Melissa has many interests including golf, skiing, scuba, art, traveling, sewing, and writing to name just a few. Her passion for animals and the help she received from the Humane Society of Cozumel Island came full circle when she was asked to join the board of directors as treasurer. “I look forward to many years of helping the HSCI with their efforts to make Cozumel a street dog free municipality and I firmly believe the road to that is through education and proper sterilization.”

Ernesto Alvarez

Ernesto moved to Cozumel with his family as a small child from Mexico City.  After going back to DF to study at UNAM university in the field of Physics he longed to move back to the island he loved as a child.  He began volunteering for the Humane Society of Cozumel in his early 20’s while working in the tour industry. In 2009 he opened the Thai Noodle Bar & Sushi, part of the Rock’n Java franchise and joined the Board of the Cozumel HS.  In 2012 Ernesto became involved with the local Rotary Club to help the Cozumel community as the Youth Exchange Officer.  He served as Rotary Club President in the year 2019-2020 and brought in several clubs from Texas including Greenville and Pflugerville who are still active in the Cozumel Rotary today.  Bringing the needs of the islands disabled to these Texas clubs has changed the lives of many families on the island.  Ernesto dedicates his time between these two organizations as a way to give back to the island he loves.  “I have seen dramatic change in attitudes towards the islands unfortunates and domestic animals and I am proud to have been a part of that change”.

Dr Mary Holloway

Dr. Mary Holloway discovered her love of caring for animals growing up in rural Ohio.  After graduating from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she traded the country for the city and practiced small animal medicine in Chicago for several years before settling in Brooklyn, NY. Her areas of interest are small animal internal medicine, dentistry, and acupuncture.  Mary switched gears in 2014 and traded in the high paced big city life to moved to Cozumel. She has been working in the scuba diving industry ever since with partner/husband Paulino Castillo. Together they own and operate Pelagic Ventures Scuba. Mary’s skills as a well trained veterinarian are an asset to the Cozumel Humane Society as the HS clinic hires are usually recently graduated from Veterinarian School. The HS vets are able to consult with her when dealing with a more difficult cases and learn from her experience.  Dr Mary lends her surgical skills at all the Cozumel HS massive spay neuter campaigns where 200-300 dogs and cats are sterilized each day. When she’s not busy at the dive shop, she enjoys hanging out with her husband, 3 cats, and dog, as well as biking and exploring the island.

Laura Alcalá

Laura was born and raised in México City.  She lived in Cuernavaca, Morelos México and Dallas TX  for a few years before moving to Cozumel in 1986 with her husband Jose De la Fuente. Laura and Jose raised their two daughters, Laura and Anayansi on the beautiful island where they opened and ran several businesses.  

Laura studied Business Administration and also became a PADI Master Scuba Instructor.  She worked as a Divemaster and Instructor on the Island for 7 years.  She owned and operated Scuba Du/Ocean Tours dive shops which was a family business.  She is a member of Anoaat, founding Member of the Scuba Fest Commitee, past Board member and volunteer at Cruz Roja Delegación Cozumel (Red Cross Mexico) where her husband served as President. Having strong ties to social work throughout her life, Laura became involved with the Cozumel Humane Society while  bringing her daughters to the junior volunteer program when they were very young.

After her husband’s passing, Laura took on the job of Operations Manager at Dive Paradise Dive Shop formerly owned by Renee (Apple) Applegate.  Dive Paradise is the largest dive operation in Cozumel.  

Laura now serves as consult to the Board of Directors.  Laura loves diving, traveling the world and the opportunity to blow bubbles with her family and friends every chance she gets. 

“For me, there is an intense love for all living creatures. I have rescued and rehabilitated dogs and cats since I was a little girl. My animals are family”.

Dr. Ivan Aguilar Garduño

From a very young age Ivan has had a great love for animals, which motivated him to become a veterinarian.  Ivan earned his degree in Queretaro and became a board certified vet specializing in wildlife medicine.  He did his internship in the Living Desert Zoo in California. He was the technical director of FIRAP (Fundación para la investigación y reproducción  de avea de presa). Dr Ivan volunteered for 8 years for APAQRO performing more than 2000 spay and neuter surgeries. Early in his career, 2005-2006 he served as lead vet at the Cozumel HS.  He furthered his knowledge and education by participating in projects in Mexico, the United States and Central America doing rehabilitation work for wildlife and implementing projects focusing on the rights and well-being of animals.  He was the Natural Science Director in Gumbalimba park Sanctuary in Roatan Honduras in 2006 2007. Soon after he found himself back to the island he grew to love and opened Oasis Animal Hospital in 2007 where he serves as owner / operator.  He opened CIEMA, an animal sanctuary for endemic wild life which he ran from 2008 to 2014. For the last 15 years Dr Ivan has attended courses and workshops in general and orthopedic surgeries.

Dr Ivan’s specialization in exotic species has made him invaluable to the islands endemic species and wildlife. He is the creator of educational content for social media and is an advocate for animal rights in Mexico and around the world.  

“I feel proud to have been part of the Cozumel Humane Society since the early days and now many years later to be a part of the consult board to help further the education of the staff veterinarians and improving domestic animal welfare on the island”. 

Sharon Morales

Sharon was born in San Antonio Texas 1942. She attended and graduated from Mexico’s University of Las America’s, Latin American studies.  After her marriage to hotelier Francisco Morales in 1969 they lived in Mexico City, Acapulco, Tampico and Mazatlan.  Sharon & arrived in Cozumel in 1974 with two children to build and manage the La Ceiba hotel, adjoining the construction of the first cruise ship pier and terminal in Cozumel.  Among their many business ventures they established a small tobacco and souvenir shop at the lobby of the hotel and started selling Mexican fine arts and crafts which Sharon personally selected.  In a few years their business grew to 12 stores of various sizes including some prestige franchises like Aca Joe and Ron Jon. They were then invited to open stores at ASUR airports and new cruise ship terminals.  The Cinco Soles name is associated with fine quality artisans and jewelry from all over Mexico.  At present day, Sharon and her family runs 30 stores and two restaurants in the Yucatán Peninsula and several ports of call in the Caribbean.

She was awarded Cozumel’s Corazón de Oro distinction in 2018 for her work and support with many Cozumel charities with the Humane Society being one of her pet projects. The Morales family were instrumental in the beginning of the Coz HS being one of their first major donors.

Dr. Erika Flores Reynosa

Erika is a veterinarian from the National University of Mexico. She has made professional internships in several institutions and countries such as: the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas, the Ol Jogi private reserve in Laikipia, Kenya, Africa; the Pretoria Zoological Park in South Africa and the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.  She worked for several years in the Wildlife Division of the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary where later she became the Coordinator of “San Cayetano” Wildlife Research and Conservation Center.  She is a presenter in over 20 Courses and Author of 2 chapters for 2 Diplomas directed to Veterinarians, and author of the Chapter African Pigmy Hedgehog Husbandry and Medicine. 

Erika incorporated to IFAW’s team in 2010 to support the companion animals project with the Humane Society of Cozumel Island where she continues to give her professional guidance and assistance to this day.  She then continued the expansion of IFAW’s work in Playa del Carmen where she started collaborations and agreements with local NGOs, DVM associations and authorities to promote responsible care of companion animals and with protocols such as good practices in high quality and high volume Spay and Neuter in dogs and cats. 

Erika’s role and responsibilities have growth these years from field veterinarian to advisor of international projects like the one in partnership with UNDP in Bosnia, or providing lectures on disaster preparedness, shelter animal medicine at different forums like the Mexican Senate and in a Diploma from the National University of Mexico. 

Erika is IFAW’s Animal Rescue Manager and responder in case of a natural disaster in the region and part of the global DRRR team, she has deployed to help animals after earthquakes in Mexico, flooding in the State of Quintana Roo, hurricane devastation in Dominica and Bahamas and most recently and ongoing, she has been providing COVID-19 emergency assistance within Playa del Carmen. 

Erika lives in Playa del Carmen in the Mexican Caribbean with multiple dogs, including some of her own but most of them rescued and in healing stage to return to their owners or find a loving home.

“My favorite word is Ubuntu which in Africa is used to say “I am because we are”, that means everyone is linked to each other”

Robert P Ramirez

Bob was born and raised in Chicago Ill. He moved his family south to El Paso Texas in 1969 and became a transplanted Texan. Bob serves as the Humane Society of Cozumel Island (HSCI) and Friends of the Cozumel Humane Society (FOTCHS) liaison in the United States.  FOTCHS is a registered 501c3 charity.  He first became involved with the HSCI in the early years through his daughter Lisa while witnessing first-hand the results the HSCI was making on the island to improve the lives of domestic animals. He helps manage all mailed donations made through our tax-deductible status (FOTCHS) and our U.S. bank account. In the early days before much of what the clinic needed was available in Mexico, Bob mulled down suitcases of badly needed items. Bob is now retired and living in Grapevine, Texas with his partner Julie Quiroz. He spends his time sailing and planning his next dive trip to Cozumel. 

“It has been a joy to watch the changes happening in Cozumel over the last 25+ years and makes me proud to know that I have been a small part in helping the Coz HS achieve so much”

Diane Telander

Diane found Cozumel as many others before her…in 1991 while cruising with friends.  She fell in love with the island, its people and the stunning diving.  A year later, she was a proud owner of property in Cozumel (which the Cozumel Humane Society will inherit someday). She married Manfred Wenger in Cozumel in 1997 and together they enjoyed traveling back and forth using Cozumel as their second home. Since 2013, Diane became an advocate for finding homes for the Coz street cats.  Every trip down  she would bring back cats and find homes for them in the states paying all the expenses.  With seven of her own Mexicats Diane continues to help Cozumel by finding street cats a home. She formed the Royal Rescue & Wildlife Sanctuary to house and care for cats while they await their adoption.  Every cat is placed in a perfect home in the U.S.A. where they are spoiled everyday.  Diane used an inheritance from her late father to help purchase a mobile clinic for the Coz HS where dogs and cats can be sterilized free of charge in all areas of the island.  

“Seeing all the stray animals everywhere was very depressing. I use to go to Burger King and buy hamburger patties to feed the animals I saw.  Since then, the Cozumel Humane Society was formed and the island has been transformed.  Thanks to them, and donations from people like you, they were able to save so many animals and place them in loving furever homes”.

Karla Porter

Original Founder Karla Porter. The Humane Society of Cozumel Island is the brain child of Karla. The seeds she planted nearly 30 years ago were just the beginning of what is now a globally recognized organization.  In 1995 Karla defied every obstacle and persevered in opening the first free spay & neuter clinic in all of Latin America.  Living in Cozumel at the time she could not witness the brutality of how street dogs were disparaged and killed. She set forward her plan and nothing got in her way. Returning from Mexico City with a small grant, she found the land and began construction. Fast forward to today, the HSCI sterilizes 2-3k animals each year and helps thousands more with their outreach program.  Karla returned to Pennsylvania and visits the island frequently.  She continues to help with fundraising.

Staff & Volunteers

We are lucky to have such a force of staff and volunteers who work 6 days a week at the clinic, and sometimes for long days in a row during the sterilization campaigns. At the clinic we have a full-time receptionist and 2 full-time veterinarians, however once our construction project is completed we’ll have space for more resident vets and/or visiting vets.

Anabel Himbernon

The HSCI welcomed Anabel Himbernon to the staff in 2023.  Annabel is an enterprising, creative, highly communicative person with innate leadership skills.  After studying Business Administration in her hometown in Spain, she traveled to Barcelona, Italy and London where she was a student at various internationally renowned performing arts schools. She later graduated with honors from Birkbeck College, University of London, where she studied Arts Management.

She arrived on this island of Cozumel more than 17 years ago and immediately began to contribute as much as possible to make Cozumel a better place.  Anabel is an art enthusiast. With theatre as her background she focused her efforts offering the island community high quality plays. Anabel taught, trained and directed a large group of young theatre enthusiasts performing under the name of Creah Teatro. Every moment of her spare time was devoted to helping homeless animals in Cozumel.  She continually picked up stray cats and dogs most of whom were sick and in need of immediate attention.  With help from private donations, Dr Julio Gutierrez and the Humane Society of Cozumel she was able to heal her rescues and find them permanent homes. Anabel continued her efforts by educating countless families to improve the quality of life of their pets.  She provided them with resources for veterinary expenses, transportation and gradually educating owners in disease prevention and permanent well being.

“Cozumel is a different island from the one I arrived to many years ago.  I have witnessed with my own eyes the difference the HSCI has made and I knew I had much to offer being part of their team.  I have proven to myself time and time again through perseverance, enthusiasm and common sense…one can make any idea or project come true”.

Lucy Hart

Lucy is originally from the UK but left her corporate job in London in 2012 and spent years travelling and teaching English around South and Central America. She settled in Playa del Carmen where she took her diving instructor course and taught diving for a small dive centre. In 2017 she moved to Cozumel and taught both diving and English until the pandemic hit when she turned her hand to web design and social media marketing. She’s thrilled to be able to give back to the island by working for the Humane Society and helping the plight of unfortunate cats and dogs.

Thank You!

  • Tax Deductible Donation
  • Regular Donation

$25

One week’s supply of sterilized gloves, syringes, and other medical supplies for sterilization.

$50

One month’s supply of pet food to go towards all of our animals waiting to be adopted. 

$100

Treatments and vaccines an abandoned kitten needs before it’s ready to be adopted.

$25

One week’s supply of sterilized gloves, syringes, and other medical supplies for sterilization.

$50

One month’s supply of pet food to go towards all of our animals waiting to be adopted. 

$100

Treatments and vaccines an abandoned kitten needs before it’s ready to be adopted.

$200

See your name displayed on a welcome paw in our clinic or garden.

$500

See your name, business, or dedication on a welcome paw in our reception area and receive free online advertising.

$1200

See your name, business, or dedication on a welcome paw in our reception area and receive extensive free online advertising.

$25

One week’s supply of sterilized gloves, syringes, and other medical supplies for sterilization.

$50

One month’s supply of pet food to go towards all of our animals waiting to be adopted. 

$100

Treatments and vaccines an abandoned kitten needs before it’s ready to be adopted.

$25

One week’s supply of sterilized gloves, syringes, and other medical supplies for sterilization.

$50

One month’s supply of pet food to go towards all of our animals waiting to be adopted. 

$100

Treatments and vaccines an abandoned kitten needs before it’s ready to be adopted.

$200

See your name displayed on a welcome paw in our clinic or garden.

$500

See your name, business, or dedication on a welcome paw in our reception area and receive free online advertising.

$1200

See your name, business, or dedication on a welcome paw in our reception area and receive extensive free online advertising.

$?

Or donate your chosen amount using your debit or credit card. Every dollar helps!

*For more information about our silver, gold, and platinum sponsorship paws click here.

★ We’re now accepting credit/debit card donations via Stripe! ★

Help Us Build a Brighter Future for Our Furry Friends!

Our Current Projects:

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT: We’re expanding our premises to include additional prep, surgery, and recovery space, a cattery and quarantine area, and our much-anticipated Cat Cafe! Please donate so we can finish the construction, help more animals, and open up our doors to more visitors!

SPAY NEUTER & VACCINE MASSIVE CAMPAIGN: We’re raising money not just for sterilization, but to vaccinate the animals of Cozumel against some of the worst and painful diseases which are unfortunately prevalent amongst street animals (including heartworm and distemper). Please help us help them!

Lend us a paw!

Tax-deductible Paypal account (US residents)

Regular Paypal account

Stripe (debit/credit card)