Spay/Neuter Clinic for Jamaica Street Dogs
By Cindi Scholefield
In November 2008 I was asked to give my spare room for a few days to a friend of a friend, who was coming to Jamaica to conduct a spay/neuter clinic for street dogs. Needless to say, I changed the sheets, plumped the pillows, welcomed my house guest and jumped head first into the project.
It was a classic example of what can be achieved by one person with an idea. Kim Swaim had visited Jamaica and been appalled by the huge numbers and dreadful condition of the dogs wandering the streets of Kingston, dying slow deaths from injury, starvation and abuse. Instead of saying, like the majority of tourists, “Oh poor things,” and going on with her life, she went home, started a non-profit organization and began to source funds and make plans.
This first spay/neuter clinic hosted by the International Spay/Neuter Network was the fruit of 6 years of planning, and took place in conjunction with two local vet clinics, and with the assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Division.
She traveled with everything: sutures, bandages, syringes, shavers, anaesthetic, antibiotics, tents, ropes, tables, leashes, tarpaulins, blankets, towels, all the other instruments necessary, and books for children on how to care for animals. She also brought an expert, Dr. Langlois, who had perfected a ‘quick-spay’ technique and was willing to teach it to the local vets.
The two-day event was a huge success, and was followed by spay/neuter clinics in various other parts of the island, where those who could never hope to afford a regular spay operation or regular neutering brought in their pets, or had them ready for the ambulance to pick them up and bring them back later.
Dogs who had no owners at all were collected by the ambulance vans too, and delivered back to their locations once it was considered safe to do so. Each time the vets’ expertise and speed improved, and it’s safe to say that over the last three years hundreds of thousands of little lives have been spared the pain of being hungry, sick, alone and unwanted.
The most recent clinic was held this week in Kingston, in a volatile area teeming with both people and dogs, again with the collaboration of several local vets, and the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We had our three tents pitched, one for registering, tagging and the associated paperwork, another for pre-op, weighing, shaving etc., and the third for surgery and recovery.
The vets, vet technicians and volunteers worked at full speed for three days and did over 160 dogs, who by and large behaved fairly well, and a number of cats, who carried on like miniature wild animals.
What was really nice was that several people decided to wait for their dogs, and in true community spirit, were happy to help in the meantime. So if one of my registration papers blew away (it was a constant battle trying to keep something heavy on each pile of papers, as it was a particularly breezy day) there was always someone willing to chase it down.
On one occasion a dog managed to slip the lock on his cage and ran like the wind around the property. A veritable army of young helpers leaped to the rescue, circled him and guided him back in the general direction of the tent, where he eventually took refuge – guess where – in his own cage!
A succession of endearing characters streamed in, notably a tall, dignified man with a large female dog and a smaller male. The female sported a nice collar, but the male was wearing a bicycle chain. I simply had to ask why, and it turns out that the female for some reason was fascinated by her mate’s collar, and had nibbled her way through four of them already, so the only thing that stopped her in her tracks was this bicycle chain — at least, so far!
Then there was the young girl who walked in, followed, like the Pied Piper, by five dogs of varying sizes and shapes, who ranged themselves in a semi-circle around her as she stood at my table. It was late in the afternoon, and we were not taking any more that day, so I pre-registered them all for the following day and told her to come early, and as she turned to leave, all five dogs obediently got into line and followed her out. The next day bright and early she and her five followers were there, but with one difference – this time she came with a cat as well!
At the end of three days I found that everything was hurting, and I could only imagine that the vets’ discomfort must have been multiplied by ten at least, since they were working under fairly primitive conditions for so many hours at a stretch. But when you’re engaged in something like this, it doesn’t really matter how much it hurts.
Think about these statistics. One female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years.
One female cat and her offspring can produce an estimated 420,000 cats in only seven years.
If anyone would like to know more about this remarkable spay neuter organization or make a donation, please check out spay-neuterjamaica.org.