Animal organizations unite to bring Spayathon back to Puerto Rico

Puppy in Puerto Rico shelterWhat if two dozen animal welfare organizations came together to help fight pet overpopulation in Puerto Rico?  What if it wasn’t only a single large spay/neuter event, but a comprehensive 18-month project to perform 20,000 surgeries, vaccinate pets, and train the island’s veterinary teams in high quality, high volume spay/neuter so they’ll be equipped to carry on the work after the project is completed?

You don’t have to imagine it;’s happening right now, as round two of Spayathon Puerto Rico launches Nov. 3-9 in Aguada, Aquas Buenas, Arecibo, Carolina, Culebra, Fajardo, San Germán, and Vieques.

The Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at UF has been working with the Humane Society of the United States to assess and support shelters in Puerto Rico. Our Dr. Julie Levy is on the ground now there now, documenting the event as part of her research into developing high quality, high volume spay/neuter programs.

“Overpopulation of cats and dogs has long been an issue in Puerto Rico, where shelters are overcrowded and homeless animals in the street are a common sight,” she said. “The situation became even more dire when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last fall, destroying infrastructure, casting many out of work, and forcing countless families to leave the island. Although the work to improve shelter standards is vital, even more important is the need to proactively control the unfettered reproduction of animals that flood into the island’s shelters.”

Under the umbrella of  HSUS’ Humane State Puerto Rico program, and with the support of Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and First Lady Beatriz Rosselló, the Puerto Rico Veterinary Medical Association, and the Puerto Rico Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, the project launched last spring and will continue through mid-2019.

“To say that the scope of the project is unprecedented would be a profound understatement,” Levy said. “The seamless coordination of medical teams, governmental agencies, funders, and nongovernmental organizations, many of which had never worked effectively together in the past, and all in the context of challenging physical conditions and language barriers, has been remarkable.”

Puerto Rico-based organizations working on the ground include The Humane Society of Puerto Rico, The Sato Project, The Government of Puerto Rico, Junta Examinadora de Medicos Veterinarios de Puerto Rico, Colegio de Médicos Veterinarios de Puerto Rico, The Puerto Rico Dog Fund, Friends of Culebra Animals, Wild at Heart Foundation, and Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue.

The veterinary teams involved come from Emancipet, ViDAS, Veterinarians for Puerto Rico, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, and Helping Paws Across Borders.

Huge thanks are owed to project funders Maddie’s Fund®, PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, and The 20/22 Act Society. The project is also being supported with medical and pet supplies, including vaccines, crates, and pet food, by Banfield Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, and Rescue Bank.

Solving pet overpopulation on the island will be the work of decades, said Levy. “This ambitious project is likely to stand as an enduring turning point in the history of animal welfare in Puerto Rico. Barriers both real and imagined have been have been abolished, and local organizations have been empowered to collaborate at a level not previously imagined.”