Animal Balance, the program hosting the clinics, is quintessentially community-based. It’s what drew me to this effort. We’ll mentor a Dominican based veterinary non-profit called Pets Breeding Control, showing that group how to provide spay and neuter services using mobile animal sterilization hospitals.
In addition, we’ll provide rabies vaccines with the support of the Dominican Anti-Rabies Campaign. The Dominican Republic still sees several cases of human rabies exposure each year.
Animal Balance’s work with the communities it serves extends beyond these short visits for pet sterilization. During our stay, we’ll continue efforts to train local residents as veterinary technicians who can recognize and treat ailments common to pets in the community. Parasites, both internal and external, are one of the largest problems facing animals in tropical climates.
Animal Balance also teaches children crucial information about bite prevention, animal communication and what to do to be responsible pet owners. These children are enthusiastic learners and share their learning with their families and friends. Before we arrive, students will make signs advertising the spay and neuter clinic and rope leashes to help people bring dogs to the clinic.
Our visit culminates with what is called the Doggie Pageant. It celebrates dogs and dog owners who have positive interactions and demonstrate their strong bond. The pageant winners have their photos taken and made into posters that are put up around town to celebrate the joy that a pet dog can bring. Animal Balance has worked in the Dominican Republic since 2007. When the campaign started, stray dogs could be heard barking late into the night. Beach vendors blamed these dogs for scaring away tourists.
Today, school teachers report less barking, better-rested students and higher grades. Through education and demonstration, beach vendors now not only tolerate the sterilized dogs on their beach but also feed them and report any health concerns with the animals. Public education and helping pet owners provide basic care for their animals are the tenants of my veterinary medicine practice. I believe this is how we increase the quality of life for the greatest number of animals.
I look forward to sharing my experiences in the Dominican Republic in my next column.