Haley and Zoe did a good job describing their day yesterday at the Spay and Neuter Clinic, but I thought I’d give you a little more background and some interesting info on how it all works here. (One look at the length of this post and you can tell it’s Allison writing!)
Spay Panama is an organization based in Panama City. They train vets and assistants on a quick-spay method which allows for young sterilization (as young as 6 weeks old) and using a stainless steel suture which is stronger, non-reactive and does not require removal. From what I heard, vets pay to participate in these clinics as it gives them valuable training for their future work.
Being able to sterilize young animals very quickly and with no need for a follow up visit are all extremely important benefits. Panamanians love their pets but their tolerance for spending a lot of money – and time – on them is much less than in the USA. In addition, many expats will bring in stray animals to get them operated on. They are released back onto the streets (if they don’t get adopted, which many do at these events) but at least they can’t reproduce and many of them are less bothersome with other animals or barking.
Spay Panama has 8 vets and 8 assistants. They travel by bus from town to town holding clinics for a massive spaying and neutering in one or two days. At a recent event in a town about 2 hours away they operated on 380 animals in 2 days. They are hard workers, these vets!
Our animal advocate group in Pedasi has been trying to get the vets to come to our town for many months. We know that most Panamanians in our town will not – or cannot – travel with their animals to another town. The vets asked us to guarantee we’d have at least 100 animals otherwise it would not be worth their time to come. They travel in their bus but it’s not a reliable transport method and frequently breaks down so they will not travel at night. This requires a minimum two-night stay in any town, even for a clinic that lasts for just one day.
In our case we really didn’t have any way of knowing if we could guarantee 100 animals. Reservations are just not done here and advertising through our traditional methods – social media, newspapers, etc – is not really terribly effective. So we all decided to think like a Panamanian and we advertised in their way. We printed flyers in Spanish and we went door to door, hung them up at taxi stands and on bus stops and we took mini flyers to the schools to be passed out. Some members of our group even went around town with a pre-recorded message in Spanish blaring over a loudspeaker on top of the car. We figured that’s how the pineapple, fish, onion, watermelon and shrimp guys do it so we should too.
We got there at 7 AM to start getting it ready and there were already animals and owners waiting to check in, even before the vets were finished with breakfast. We saw a few animals tied to the fence near the basketball court so we figured someone either found a stray they wanted to be fixed or they were not able to stay and be with their own dog. Either way we took care of the animal, as you can tell by Haley’s post yesterday.
The vets arrived around 7:30 and it was a well-oiled machine for the most part. They had a check in section where you create a collar for the animal, writing down it’s weight, gender and owner’s name. From there the owners stand in line to get the shot to put the animal to sleep. This line took awhile because the shot guy would not put the animals to sleep too soon lest they wake up before the operation or post-op procedures are done. So sometimes the shot guy just wandered off until he saw they were ready for more sleepy animals. This is where it was a little disorganized when people would get out of line to go sit down and lost their place.
After the sleepy shot there was a mat where the animals all began their nap. Some animals fell asleep while walking over to the mat but others had to be convinced to relax with a belly rub or some petting. From there the shavers (volunteers from our group) would pick them up and do the shaving in preparation for surgery.
When they were done, the shavers would yell “taxi!” and volunteers would come and collect the limp animal and take it to the operating table. They would get their operations (some of the bigger dogs had gas masks to prevent them from waking up) and then the vets yell “taxi!” and a handler comes and takes the animal to post-op. It was funny to see all these lifeless animals being carried around, but it worked.
I didn’t get the full briefing but it looked like post-op including getting a shot of vitamin b12, they got their ears cleaned and maybe some flea and tick medicine? I couldn’t tell for sure but it looked like they were getting cleaned up. I do know that the vets wanted to snip a corner of the ear of the animal to indicate it had been spayed or neutered. I guess this helps with strays to know if they still need the operation or not. Evidently many Panamanians objected to that but the vets made it clear that in the future it would be part of the process and not an optional procedure. Here they do not castrate the males when they neuter so it’s not so obvious if the operation has been done.
After the post-op the animals were laid down on the recovery mat and soon they began to stir and owners were allowed to take them home. Dogs that walked to the clinic could not walk home so when there was a large dog or an owner who lived far away, our group provided a free taxi who would take the owner and animal anywhere they needed to go. That taxi driver was one of my contributions to the group because I was able to negotiate his services in Spanish. He worked from 7 until 5 and was a busy guy. I saw him today getting his taxi washed. Lots of dirty animals means you need a taxi wash very soon!
In the end we had 182 animals that received operations. We were very happy to have exceeded expectations of the vets, and we got a lot of compliments that we were very well organized. Our group had to pay the vets $25 for every animal they operated on, but we did not receive that much in donations. We knew we would not get all owners to pay $25 so we just asked them to donate what they could. We are OK with that because we are actively fundraising and we felt that this clinic was really one of the most important functions of our group.
From my personal view, I enjoyed the day because I got to be in a familiar role – organizing, being a volunteer – but I also got to interact with Panamanians. Many of them were familiar to me and I know now when I’m out and about in town I will see even more people that I know. That is part of the integration that I enjoy about living in a small town.
Our next fundraising event is fast approaching. We are holding a “Mercado” on Saturday where we collect household and clothing donations (largely from expats, especially those that are leaving town) and then sell them at a large garage sale. Evidently this is a very popular event among the Panamanians and another great opportunity to get involved in the town. The ex-pat kids will be holding a lemonade stand. Some things never change, even when you live in another country. Who doesn’t love lemonade on a hot, humid day?!