The Humane Society of the United States and its partners are back on the ground for the second round of Spayathon for Puerto Rico, an ambitious project that aims to provide free spay, neuter and vaccination services to 30,000 dogs and cats in the commonwealth over 12 months. The first round in June helped 5,600 dogs and cats; this time we are expecting to assist 8,000 dogs and cats over a seven-day period.
People with pets have been lining up by the hundreds at Spayathon clinics, which are located in eight strategically selected towns to reach as many people and pets as possible. Many wait for hours and some even camp overnight outside the clinics to make sure their pets are seen. This was the case with Luis Rosario and his dog Milagros, whom Luis rescued from the streets of the town of Mayaguez two weeks ago. When Luis found Milagros, she had just delivered puppies and was very thin. Luis knew he needed to get her spayed and checked by a veterinarian, so when he heard a Spayathon clinic was coming to the nearby town of San German, he went there the night before and camped outside. Next morning, Milagros was one of the first patients our veterinarians saw, and hours later a spayed and happy Milagros was on the way back home with Luis, a new dog bed, food and toys.
Another Spayathon client, José, arrived at 2 a.m. to stand in line with his dog, Fiona. José knew how important it was for Fiona to be spayed, but he was already spending a great deal of money on treating her skin problems, and couldn’t afford to spend more on the spay surgery. He was excited that thanks to Spayathon, he could give his dog a healthier and better life.
When we launched Humane Puerto Rico in 2015, the need for more animal-related services here was already great, with tens of thousands of unowned dogs and cats roaming the streets. That need escalated dramatically after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last year, leaving the people and animals there in crisis. As people vacated the island, many leaving their pets behind, the population of homeless animals rose sharply. It is estimated that there are 300,000 unowned dogs and cats now roaming the streets of this U.S. territory. Zoonotic diseases like leptospirosis have spread, posing a threat to both animal and human populations.
That’s why the services we are providing through Spayathon are so important. Our approach delivers high quality, high volume spay/neuter services, with as many as eight clinics operating simultaneously across the island for up to seven days straight, four times over the course of 12 months. By the time Spayathon for Puerto Rico concludes we expect to have altered as many as 30,000 animals, and trained dozens of local veterinarians and their staff cohorts in high volume spay and neuter surgical techniques through the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance. We will also leave behind supplies and enough surgical equipment to furnish the island’s first permanent low-cost spay/neuter clinics.
Our work with Spayathon was recently acknowledged by the Clinton Global Initiative’s “Commitment to Action,” which recognizes efforts to address significant global challenges with methods that are innovative, specific and measurable. Spayathon is one of less than a dozen animal welfare-related efforts to receive this recognition.
Spayathon for Puerto Rico is one of the largest spay/neuter efforts ever undertaken and it involves a coalition of 26 national and international groups, including the HSUS,the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Junta Examinadora de Medicos Veterinarios de Puerto Rico, Colegio de Médicos Veterinarios de Puerto Rico, Maddie’s Fund®,GreaterGood.org, Rescue Bank, a program of GreaterGood, Banfield Foundation, PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, Emancipet, ViDAS, Veterinarians for Puerto Rico, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, Helping Paws Across Borders, Humane Society of Puerto Rico, the Sato Project, the Puerto Rico Dog Fund, Friends of Culebra Animals, Wild at Heart Foundation, Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue, Santuario de Animales San Francisco de Asís, Coalition for Animal Rescue, the 20/22 Act Society and Best Friends Animal Society. Special thanks also goes out to Boehringer Ingelheim, Lupine Pets, Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Pet King Brands and Pet Food Centers of Evansville, Indiana, for providing critical supplies.
We are incredibly proud of the work the Spayathon coalition is doing. Its impact will be felt in Puerto Rico for years to come, and we are happy that we are helping pets like Milagros and Fiona – and thousands more – who can thrive and live healthy, happy and long lives with the people who love and care for them.