Natalia Hanson has seen the terrible living conditions for animals in her home country of Colombia.

This holiday season, she decided to do something about it.

Last week on Nov. 23, Hanson, a second-year public relations student, held the Colombian Chow Down dinner at Boston Pizza on Carling Avenue. Ten per cent of the restaurant’s total income that evening was given personally to Hanson.

Along with selling raffle tickets for a free stay at the Cartier Place Hotel, she earned $1,130 in less than a week of her fundraiser launch. She plans to donate the earnings to two local shelters when she goes home to Colombia over the holidays.

Hanson, who went to post-secondary school in hopes of becoming a veterinary technician, now works at the Algonquin Animal Hospital. One of her old bosses encouraged her not to become a technician but instead work with people.

“I was thinking, what can I do?” said Hanson. “And so then I came across PR and I thought, ‘This is perfect!’ I like now that I can combine my passion and love for animals with public relations.”

Diane Walker, a veterinarian at the Algonquin Animal Hospital and co-worker of Hanson’s, has witnessed firsthand the despair of stray animals on beaches in Mexico, the Dominican, and Cuba.

“It’s hard for animals on the islands,” said Walker. “Dogs and cats get nothing.”

Walker has been to shelters in Hawaii and recognizes that living conditions aren’t always good for the citizens and they’re even worse for the animals. She feels that more adoption opportunities should be made available for travellers.

Like Hanson, Walker believes that population management and educating the public on population control is where the situation has hope to change. She acknowledges that vaccinating, especially for rabies, is also important.

Stephen Heckbert, one of Hanson’s professor, was proud to see one of his students doing something for a cause she is passionate about.

“It was a great idea,” said Heckbert. “Showing that kind of initiative is something we encourage all of our students to do.”

Bella Maestri, a second-year public relations student , is one of Hanson’s many supportive classmates. She found encouragement through Natalia’s fundraiser to become more involved.

“I spread the word that it was going on,” said Maestri. “It really encourages you to get involved.”

Hanson, who  also fundraised annually in Colombia, plans to continue advocating for the less fortunate pets and pursuing her passions.