Holbox Animal Shelter

Beyond the stunning views and tranquil beaches, Holbox offers a unique opportunity for visitors to make a meaningful difference during their stay. At the heart of this opportunity is the Holbox Animal shelter, a sanctuary dedicated to the welfare of animals in need.

I have had the privilege of working alongside the passionate team at Refugio Holbox Animal Shelter, and I cannot express enough gratitude for their tireless dedication. Thanks to their efforts, the island has transformed into a place where street dogs are a sight of the past, and where every animal is treated with love and care.

In this post, which contains affiliate links (what does this mean?), I’ll share with you the story of this remarkable shelter, the incredible work being done, and how you, too, can lend a hand—whether it’s through donations, volunteering, or simply spreading the word. Join me in exploring how even on vacation, your love for animals can leave a lasting impact on this beautiful island.

About Refugio Holbox Animal Shelter

Just a short distance from the soothing waves and gentle breezes of Holbox Island, Refugio Holbox Animal shelter stands as a beacon of hope for countless animals. Founded over a decade ago by the compassionate and visionary Morelia Montes, this shelter started as a dream fueled by personal savings and a deep love for animals in distress. Today, it has grown into a vital part of the community, providing sanctuary for dogs, cats, birds, and even wildlife affected by the island’s environmental challenges.

The shelter operates with a modest setup but achieves remarkable outcomes. It houses approximately 70 dogs, 20 cats, and a variety of birds at any given time. The facility includes a small veterinary clinic directly connected to the shelter, where medical treatments and sterilizations are performed. This clinic is crucial in maintaining the health and well-being of the animals and controlling the pet population on the island.

Refugio Holbox Animal Shelter

Impact of the Shelter

The positive impact of Refugio Animal Holbox on the local environment and community cannot be overstated. By providing care and a safe haven for stray and injured animals, the shelter has effectively eliminated the problem of street dogs, creating a safer and more welcoming community for residents and visitors alike. The staff, consisting of both local volunteers and international helpers, go beyond merely sheltering animals. After storms or heavy rains, they are often seen rescuing and returning displaced wildlife, such as turtles, snakes, and even crocodiles, to their natural habitats.

The shelter’s influence extends into the evenings when raccoons, which are not housed at the shelter, can be seen wandering in small packs around the island. This coexistence between humans and wildlife underscores the balance that Refugio Animal Holbox strives to achieve.

Beyond its direct animal care activities, the shelter plays a critical educational role, teaching locals and tourists alike about responsible pet ownership and wildlife conservation. Each visitor leaves with a greater awareness of the challenges faced by animals and the environment on Holbox Island, fostering a culture of respect and kindness towards all living beings.

Tourist Interaction and Support

One of the most heartwarming aspects of Refugio Holbox Animal Shelter is the active participation of tourists in the shelter’s daily operations. Visitors are not just welcome; they are essential to the shelter’s success. Many who come to Holbox for a holiday discover a rewarding way to give back through their interactions with the shelter’s animals. By bringing donations, volunteering time, or simply sharing their love, tourists make a tangible difference.

During a typical visit, tourists might engage in a variety of activities:

  • Donating essential supplies: Tourists often bring food, toys, and sometimes even medical supplies which are crucial for the ongoing care of the animals.
  • Spending time with the animals: This is not only a joy for the animals, who need affection and social interaction, but it’s also a profound experience for the visitors.
  • Assisting with daily care tasks: From walking dogs to cleaning enclosures and feeding animals, there’s always a way to help out.

Supporting Refugio Animal Holbox

If you’re inspired to support the shelter, there are numerous ways to contribute, whether you’re visiting in person or supporting from afar:

  • Financial Donations: Since the shelter operates entirely on donations and receives no government support, financial contributions are always critically needed.
  • Volunteering: If you’re local or staying on the island for a while, volunteering your time can be one of the most valuable ways to help.
  • Adoption: Adopting an animal is perhaps the most direct way to make a lasting impact. The shelter prominently displays a board with details about the dogs and cats available for adoption.
  • Flight Angels: For those traveling back home, particularly international visitors, becoming a “flight angel”—someone who helps transport adopted animals to their new homes—can change an animal’s life forever.

Special Attention to Cats

While dogs often receive most of the attention from visitors, the cats at Refugio Animal Holbox have their own unique needs. Some of these cats are housed in special enclosures to prevent the spread of diseases like Feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Donations specific to cat care, such as flea and tick treatments, as well as toys and food, are especially welcome. By shining a spotlight on the cats, you help ensure that all animals at the shelter receive the care and attention they deserve.

Visiting the Shelter

Refugio Holbox Animal Shelter is easily accessible and open to visitors daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. Located near the small airport on Calle Tintorera, the shelter encourages potential visitors to get in touch beforehand to find out what is most needed. This proactive contact can maximize the impact of your visit or donation.


I am continually inspired by the dedication of its staff and the generosity of visitors from around the world. If you find yourself on Holbox Island, consider taking a day to visit this remarkable shelter. Whether it’s through a donation, adoption, or simply spreading the word, every little bit helps in ensuring that the island remains a sanctuary for animals in need.