August 24, 2009 10:32 PM

When dog lover Steve Forman retired to the sleepy fishing town of San Felipe, Mexico, seven years ago, he noticed something right away about the local sandy streets: They were home to an overabundance of dogs.

So, last year, the former salesman looked to the people pounding the pavement for an innovative way to help stray animals in San Felipe, which is about two hours south of the U.S. border. Drawing inspiration from his success selling shoes on eBay over a decade ago, he started the Shoes for Spays project, a call for donations of new and gently worn shoes which are sold on eBay to raise money to control the growing pet population there.

The owner of six beloved pooches of his own, Forman learned soon after he moved to the town that an estimated 15,000 dogs lived on the streets, in scorching temperatures that often reached 105 degrees. In 2007, he decided to use his free time to start the Zero Additional Pup-ulation Project (ZAPP) to help manage the canine population and spread the word about the importance of spaying and neutering.

With the launch of ZAPP’s Shoes for Strays project last year, he set up an eBay store specifically to sell donated men’s and women’s shoes and has received some 500 pairs so far. The money raised from the shoes is used in conjunction with a local vet office to offer free spay and neutering services every Friday.

“I think dogs, like children, need advocates,” Forman, 63, tells PEOPLE Pets. “They need people who will speak for them.”

With Forman as their voice, strays in the area are benefiting. Along with the help of up to a hundred volunteers, Forman organizes other fund-raising events, like an annual drag show, casino night, and a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, which have helped to raise money to spay and neuter about 100 animals a month at the clinic. To date, some 5,500 animals have been helped.

“The dogs in San Felipe look far healthier than they did back in 2003, and the local folks are more aware of illness and disease,” says Forman. “But until we reach zero population growth, we won’t be out of the woods.”

How can you help? Simply by doing a little online shopping, or by raiding your closet and shipping shoe donations to a pick-up location in California. Visit Forman’s site for more information and click here to become friends with him on PEOPLE Pets.

Meet more members on PEOPLE Pets:
Meet a Member: Isla Animals Is Saving Mutts in Mexico
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