Verónica Basterrica Wijnands is a one-woman whirlwind on a mission to transform communities in Chile to improve the lives of cats. As founder and director of nonprofit cat welfare organization Fundación FeliNNos, and a member of our Feral Friends Network, Verónica works tirelessly as she practices Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and educates citizens about what’s best for community cats.
“I am in love with these magnificent cats, who are so intense, brave, resilient, and stoic,” says Verónica. “It is important that everyone understands that they are not damaged, broken, or unhappy, and learns the best ways to help them.”
Verónica first noticed community cats roaming her neighborhood more than 20 years ago. She provided shelter for local colonies and soon branched out to spaying and neutering the cats, which she would later come to know as TNR. She has since blossomed into a one-woman organization that has made some of Chile’s communes more humane for cats.
“It was clear that if I wanted to do more for the cats, I needed the legal status of a formal organization,” says Verónica. “I was going to make real change in municipalities.”
In 2013, Verónica founded Fundación FeliNNos, a sanctuary for adult cats abandoned by their owners. The organization also manages the TNR Chile Project, which provides TNR services, spay/neuter clinics, colony care, and free traps and education to advocates. With Verónica’s hands-on assistance, officials in the communes of Providencia, Vitacura, and Santiago learned the value of TNR for the first time, and developed programs to support community cat caregivers.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have authorities listen to me and be willing to take care of their community’s colonies and sponsor the costs,” says Verónica. “This is huge, because three years ago, almost nobody here even knew what TNR was.”
Today, Verónica directs TNR programs in three municipalities and is working to bring similar programs to two more. She also works with Centro de Detención Penal Santiago Sur, the largest prison in Chile, to provide TNR for the 350-plus community cats on its grounds. In just one year, she has spayed or neutered and vaccinated 170 of those cats.
Alley Cat Allies is proud to be an inspiration to Verónica in her lifesaving work. She has followed our protocols for everything from TNR to community change, and was delighted to be accepted into our Feral Friends Network in 2014 so she could help even more members of her community.
We deeply appreciate Verónica’s aspirations for the future: to make TNR standard procedure in Chile, to educate citizens and veterinarians about community cats, and to help more communities understand the value of protecting cats’ lives.
“When I am trapping or working with officials, I know that my efforts are nothing compared to the benefits it will bring to these cats,” says Verónica. “That is my only goal: to improve the lives of the cats.”