As many of you know, I have been volunteering with World Vets for the past several years. The organization operates in over 45 countries on 6 continents. Their mission is to “improve the health and well-being of animals by providing veterinary aid and training in developing countries and by providing disaster relief worldwide.”
In October I travelled to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a nation in the southern Caribbean that is made up of the large island of St. Vincent and a chain of smaller islands. The Grenadines are a popular destination for tourists, owing to their beautiful beaches and coral reefs. St. Vincent, however, is less visited- the beaches are mostly rocky and volcanic, and the terrain mountainous.
The Vincentian SPCA, a local animal welfare group, asked World Vets for assistance in managing the pet and stray overpopulation problem there. As can be imagined, there are limited resources on the island and uncontrolled reproduction is a serious concern. Our trip was a pilot program, meaning that this is the first time World Vets visited the area. We had no idea what to expect, but were optimistic that our campaign would be successful.
Our team was comprised of seven veterinarians, two veterinary technicians, and four assistants. We even had one vet from Italy and one from Venezuela. It is truly amazing how so many people, from different backgrounds, can come together and work so efficiently and adeptly.
The SPCA was out in full force as well—handling registrations/paperwork, cleaning instruments, keeping us well-hydrated and fed. For me, one of the wonderful aspects of these trips is working alongside the residentsI learn so much about the local culture. We provided three clinic days, in two different locations. The second place was 1 ½ hours from our guest house, in an area with no veterinary care available.
Over the course of these days, we performed almost 200 spays and neuters. With five doctors operating throughout each day, we were busy! Our “surgery suites” were fairly primitive (headlamps for lighting, plastic tables elevated on cinder blocks).
The procedures were often complicated by excessive bleeding, as tick-borne disease is common (which can cause a decrease in blood platelets). Once complete, the dog or cat was passed on to “recovery,” where it received pain medication, deworming, and flea/tick treatment. Then after the pet was able to walk, back into the arms of the waiting owner.
The SPCA volunteers also rounded up as many stray dogs that they manage. They would bring them in crates, and once the procedures were done, they would go back to their territory. Obviously, neutering the stray population is crucial to the overpopulation issue.
Aside from surgeries, we also provided medical consultations. These could be anything, ranging from treatment of parasites and infections, to evaluating tumors and orthopedic injuries. All, including medications, is provided at no charge to the owners. I even got to do a house call to examine a limping baby donkey!
The locals were all so appreciative, and it was very clear how much they love their pets.
I do confess that the trip was not all hard work. I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful St. Vincent Botanical Gardens, scuba dive, and snorkel. And yes, relax and listen to island music, sipping a tropical drink. Life is good! 🙂