Since a very young age, Maria felt a deep empathy towards animals and collaborated with animal protection NGOs.
In 2003 Maria obtained her degree in law from the faculty of law at the University of Porto. In 2005 she founded Animais de Rua, a nationwide NGO focusing on the issues of stray and feral animals in urban areas and responsible pet ownership, working closely with governmental agencies, municipalities, communities and veterinary services. She also finished her Advanced Course in Animal Law at the Institute of Legal and Political Sciences at the University of Lisbon.
In 2019, she was co-author with Eugenia Natoli, Nadja Ziegler and Agnés Dufau, on the study “Unowned Free-Roaming Domestic Cats: Reflection of Animal Welfare and Ethical Aspects in Animal Law in Six European Countries”, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research.
Maria decided to leave her job as a lawyer and work full time at the NGO until she was invited to work as an advisor at the Cabinet of the Minister of Environment and Climate Action of the XXII Constitutional Government, with a special focus on the area of companion animal welfare legislation. With the change of the legislature, Maria was asked by the Minister for Environment of the XXIII Constitutional Government to work on several pieces of legislation with the aim to significantly improve the welfare status of companion animals in Portugal.
In recent years, Maria has assiduously participated as a guest speaker and moderator in several conferences, debates and lectures organized by entities such as Eurogroup For Animals, International Cat Care, Change For Animals Foundation, CouraVeg, Portuguese Universities and Municipalities on the subject of public policies for animal control and welfare.
In 2018, Maria was the winner of the CEVA International Cat care Award.
In 2017, Maria was voted Personality of the Year by the readers of P3 Público national newspaper.
In 2016, Maria was honored with the Merit and Altruism Gold Medal by the Municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia.
Maria is proud to be a recipient of the Lewis & Clark Online Animal Law Advanced Degree Ambassador Award, and she is honored to learn from top animal scholars to be part of an academic international community of animal protection advocates.