In 2015, the Humane Society of the United States launched a program to turn around the fortunes of the animals of Puerto Rico. Despite many challenges, including Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island six months ago, we have stayed the course, putting substantial resources on the ground and targeting the island’s animal welfare challenges.
Our latest effort is an initiative to provide high quality and high volume spay and neuter services estimated to reach more than 20,000 dogs and cats in underserved communities across Puerto Rico. We are calling it Spayathon for Puerto Rico, and each animal treated will also receive rabies, leptospirosis, and other essential vaccinations.
We worked closely with Governor Ricardo Rosselló and First Lady Beatriz Rosselló, the Puerto Rico Veterinary Medical Association, the Puerto Rico Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and the Puerto Rico Department of State to sign an MoU to implement the Spayathon over an 18-month period in 2018 and 2019.
As part of this initiative, we will also provide high quality, high volume spay/neuter training for Puerto Rico veterinarians to increase the number of professionals on the island who can provide such services. Once the 18-month program concludes, the HSUS will donate training equipment to the veterinarians trained and local organizations.
Since we undertook our work in Puerto Rico, we have provided training to more than 5,000 law enforcement officials, teachers, and sheltering professionals, humane education for children, spay and neuter programs for owned, homeless, and shelter animals, and spurred a campaign to strengthen anti-cruelty laws there. We have also provided veterinary care and immunocontraception services for horses on the island of Vieques. Finally, we have initiated professionalization initiatives to benefit the Puerto Rico sheltering community, like our Sister Shelter program, which matches shelters with mentor groups stateside, and our partnership with the shelter medicine experts at University of Florida’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program.
Through Humane Society International, we have directly supported a spay/neuter/vaccination program in collaboration with veterinary professionals across the island, reaching more than 78 percent of municipalities, with a budget of $250,000 annually.
After Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico, we provided more than 300,000 pounds of supplies, for both humans and animals. Immediately after the hurricane, our responders on the ground were providing emergency veterinary care for dogs, cats, horses, and other animals. We also helped move thousands of shelter animals out of shelters both before and after Maria.
But numerous challenges remain in Puerto Rico. The number of animals in shelters has burgeoned as a result of the continuing struggle to return to any sense of normalcy and people leaving pets behind when they have to flee the island, adding to the population of unowned animals. This has also resulted in a rise in animal euthanasia numbers at the shelters. Veterinary resources on the island are overstretched, with only one veterinarian available for every 15,000 people.
We’re doing our part and with the Spayathon, we hope to make an even greater impact. Our goal is nothing less than a humane Puerto Rico where animals have their most basic needs met, and are treated with the love and respect they deserve.
Spayathon for Puerto Rico is made possible through partnerships with Maddie’s Fund®, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, Banfield Foundation, GreaterGood.org, Emancipet, ViDAS, Veterinarians for Puerto Rico, Best Friends Animal Society, The Humane Society of Puerto Rico, The Sato Project, The Puerto Rico Dog Fund, Wild at Heart Foundation, Helping Paws Across Borders, The 20/22 Act Society and Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue.