History

FIAA began in 2001 when its founder, Mindy Camponeschi, was inspired by what she saw as a compelling need for animal protection while on a personal trip to Chile. Though a beautiful country blessed with an unusually moderate climate and welcoming citizens, Chile was overrun with apparently homeless street dogs that seemed a permanent part of the landscape. A shelter was most often someone's overcrowded patio or a storm drain and those people who wanted to help had little to no idea of what to do or how to help. Periodic slaughters were the most common government response to unwanted animals and the issue was rapidly growing with no real solution in sight.

Upon returning to New York City, the founder, already actively involved with various shelter groups and modern training techniques internationally, created FIAA as a non-profit, family foundation based in the United States. Upon the next visit to Chile, FIAA immediately financed a pioneering four-year sterilization and treatment program for sheltered dogs and pets of people with limited resources in association with the veterinary clinic of Dr. Manuel Meneses in Viña del Mar.

In 2002 FIAA produced "Patas de Kiltro" with Chilean filmmakers Alina Astudillo and Guillermo Gonzalez, an unprecedented documentary study of street dogs' lives in Valparaiso, Chile from the point of view of the dogs and their relationship with the human society with which they coexist. This eye-opening film was seen nationally and internationally.

In 2003, in the city of Viña del Mar, FIAA financed one of the first mass sterilization campaigns in Chile. Organized locally by Dr. Claudia Bilbao of the Department of the Environment of that city with the Junta Vecinal of Barrio Forestal and performed by a specially trained group of Chilean veterinarians (Fundacion RIMA) as a benefit to owners lacking financial resources, this initiative was so successful as a pilot program that it became an annual event sponsored by the municipality. Due to its initial success FIAA duplicated the Viña del Mar program throughout various townships - setting the national standard for what is today the primary sterilization model in Chile. Now that many localities have adopted FIAA's practices, many people have become educated about sterilization and accepted it as the preferred method of population control over mass killing. As a result of its work over the past decade of sterilization initiatives, FIAA has prevented the birth of hundreds of thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens - sparing them from a painful life of neglect, violence and malnutrition on the streets.

From 2003-2006 FIAA funded and acted as advisor on the first TV program in Chile created and performed by children, the "Club de Cuky", under the direction of Miguel Angel Segeur and Veronica Santis of Viña del Mar, for the purpose of educating children and their families about responsible pet care.

In Concon, Chile, from 2003-2008, FIAA financed Sole Villar's volunteer Group St. Francis of Assisi, to medically care for and feed local strays as well as providing them with homes and sterilization. We also worked to educate locals on regular vaccination and treatment campaigns for their dogs. This was a milestone in providing practical, local solutions to what had seemed to be an unsolvable problem. The surprising outcome of this campaign was that the local municipality in Concon formed a department for the sole purpose of dealing with animal control.

By 2006 there was an insurgence of animal care groups and growing awareness regarding animal protection that led to a renowned campaign in Chile's capital called "Santiago Esta En Celo" (Santiago In Heat) - in which FIAA participated as a sponsor - engaging famous personalities and earning publicity in an effort to promote mass sterilization.

In 2007 and 2009 FIAA funded two more innovative documentaries on street dog clans and their ethology with interventions involving the community of Valparaiso in their protection: "A 50cm del Suelo" and "Mercado Puerto, La Otra Ciudad, Etologia Urbana", directed and produced by Alina Astudillo and her team.

In 2009 the historic "Ley de Proteccion Animal" legislation was passed in Chile to legally punish animal cruelty.

Since its creation, FIAA has continued to make a significant impact through organizing sterilizations and medical treatments for abused and abandoned animals throughout Chile - contributing to a dramatic overall shift in people's awareness and education about this issue. Today, there are many volunteers who create and develop their own grassroots groups to facilitate adoption, often through innovative uses of social media. University students have even begun to take in and care for street dogs on campus. There will likely always be dogs living in the street, but now we are seeing people take personal responsibility to protect and care for them.

While our work with dogs and cats is an important part of our mission, we have also rescued mistreated horses, helped to rehome a circus lion and intervened in emergency situations, such as the rescue efforts to save thousands of animals affected by the terrible fire in Valparaiso in 2014. In addition to our work with street dogs, work horses and endangered wildlife, we work closely with a Chilean expert and writer on birds, Enrique Couve, regarding protection of Patagonian bird species and mammals. Globally, we have also supported wildlife organizations dedicated to sea turtle rescue, research and conservation (STC) and elephant rescue and protection (DSWT and SEF).