I am participating in round 3 of Spayathon™ for Puerto Rico, an initiative launched to change the landscape for animals of the island by providing high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter services to the pets here, all at no cost to their owners, caregivers and guardians. The energy here is infectious. I have been spending time at various clinics around the island, watching as thousands of animals come in for surgery and vaccinations.
I have met so many wonderful animals over the last two days, and a few of them just melted my heart, like Kimbo, a golden and white pit bull mix, and his 10-pound, wiry-haired, terrier mix brother, Cooper. I spent more than an hour with Kimbo as he was vaccinated and resting in the recovery area – my favorite part of the clinic because it’s where the dogs and their parents are reunited. I sat with Kimbo as he slowly regained consciousness. Being a big dog, he was sluggish and slow to move, but the minute Cooper, who had been vaccinated and neutered earlier in the day, came into the recovery room, Kimbo was all ears and all love. At one point Cooper, clearly the protector, climbed on top of Kimbo and I was lucky enough to be able to hold both as they cuddled together so sweetly.
It is astonishing but not surprising to see how popular these clinics are. The need here is great, and people in Puerto Rico are now very familiar with the services we offer, after two rounds of Spayathon. They have been flooding in, some lining up as early as 9 p.m. the night before the clinics open, waiting patiently with their dogs and cats. The devotion and unconditional love people here have for their pets is so uplifting. They have taken warmly and with enthusiasm to the process and structure our initiative provides. What is also inspiring to see, as I watch our staff, the veterinarians and volunteers work, is how streamlined and filled with care and love the entire process is. At the end of the treatment, we send the dogs and cats home with donated pet products.
When we launched Humane Puerto Rico in 2015, the need for more animal-related services was already evident, with tens of thousands of unowned dogs and cats roaming the streets. That need escalated dramatically after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. As people vacated the island, many forced to leave 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. Zoonotic diseases like leptospirosis and rabies 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 we complete our fourth round, we expect to have spayed/neutered and vaccinated 30,000 dogs and trained dozens of local veterinarians and their staff in high quality, high volume spay and neuter surgical techniques through the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance. We will also leave behind enough surgical equipment and supplies to furnish the island’s first permanent low-cost spay/neuter clinics.
Spayathon for Puerto Rico is the largest coalition effort ever to conduct spay/neuter and vaccination clinics for free and it involves 26 national and international groups, including the HSUS, the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico, the Office of the First Lady 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, Best Friends Animal Society and the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Special thanks also goes out to Boehringer Ingelheim, LupinePet, Dechra Pharmaceuticals, Pet King Brands, Royal Canin, Chewy.com, Project Vets and Pet Food Centers of Evansville, Indiana, for providing critical supplies.
Being at Spayathon has been an incredible experience and I’m grateful to all of our coalition partners, as well as Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and First Lady Beatriz Rosselló, the latter of whom was here yesterday meeting with the pets and their people, and the volunteers who made this work possible. We are also grateful to the local municipalities where we are hosting the clinics for making their facilities available. Our clinics will continue to operate until February 9 for this round with our next round running from May 3 to 9 this year. You can get more information on the locations and dates of operation for each one of the clinics here.