by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Elisabeth Meade takes care of more than 20 cats at her home in Havana's Playa district, where she lives with her father and younger sister.
The 24-year-old, who works as a physiotherapist at a nearby hospital, started studying veterinary medicine for treatment of sick pets.
Meade is part of a volunteer initiative aimed at protecting animals in need across the country's most populous city.
Clean and safe, Meade's place meets standards of care for animal shelters, where abandoned pets are provided with food and water.
"I like what I do," she said. "I not only rescue stray cats from living in the streets, but interact with compassionate people determined to adopt pets."
Over the past two years, she has helped nearly 400 animals to find a home and medical attention after coming into her custody.
Her father, John, 51, was initially reluctant to turn his house into a shelter for animals, but as time went by, he changed his mind, realizing that many pets needed to be rescued.
"Although I hesitated in the very beginning, I am now very much supporting my daughter. We are a pet-friendly family," he said, adding that children should be raised with love for animals at early ages.
In recent days, as a result of the joint work between government, scientists, social activists, and breed associations nationwide, Cuba's Council of State approved an animal welfare law that will come into effect in the coming months.
"Under the new legal framework, all animals will receive the same treatment," said Orlando Diaz, a high-ranking official at the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, noting the importance of protecting biological diversity and raising awareness of preventing animal cruelty.
Besides, an animal pharmacy network will be set up in the Caribbean nation, while veterinary clinics are to be open in areas out of this service.
In central Havana, 62-year-old Gilda Arencibia shares her house with eight dogs and makes time to feed injured animals or those living in the streets.
"The Cuban government has made a wise decision by issuing an animal welfare decree," she said. "I have no doubt it is a step forward for the betterment of our society."