What comes to mind when you hear Spayathon event? If you’re thinking, “a lot of work, but big rewards,” you’re absolutely right. Add in the location of Puerto Rico and you’d get “hot, sticky and sweaty” to be exact. At least that’s how Dr. Laurie Peek of Maddie’s Fund® Executive Leadership Team described Round 1 of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Spayathon for Puerto Rico event, where they completed over 5,000 spay/neuter surgeries in 6 days. As they gear up for Round 2 next month, Dr. Peek shares her first-hand volunteering experience from this past June.
“We (Maddie’s Fund) were one of six groups who volunteered for this event. HSUS set a goal for 20,000 surgeries in a year.” She continued, “We’ve taken Puerto Rico under our wing with the Sister Shelter Project. Their live release rate was dismal and they have an access to care issue. After hurricane Maria, the shelters were destroyed making matters even worse.”
So much so that number of homeless pets skyrocketed to over 300,000 dogs and 1 million cats.
Peek explained that shelters in Puerto Rico do not typically do a lot of adoptions, as the percentage of households with pets is higher than stateside. Shelters also had long length of stays.
“There are a lot of stray animals in Puerto Rico, so we knew it was a spay/neuter issue. We also knew they were much farther behind than their sister shelter in the U.S., and we thought this would bring them up to speed with numbers. The next step would be to look at practices.”
While she’d participated in other spayathon events in the past, this one was different. Her biggest takeaway? The people, and the incredible bond they shared with their pets.
“Everyone was so dedicated and committed to their animals,” explained Dr. Peek. “The way the clients stayed with their dogs in both pre-vetting and recovery was absolutely beautiful.”
Dr. Peek continued, “They clearly love their pets and just have an access to care issue. They were so dedicated and committed to their animals.”
It’s a good thing they were so committed, because they were instrumental in getting the whole thing done.
“Because of the number of animals we needed the pet owners to play a role in the process and they were happy to do so. We didn’t have cages so you’d have people laying with their dogs as they recovered and waiting all day.”
Dr. Peek was also impressed with the high safety protocols in place. For any vet techs interested in volunteering, she says you won’t regret it.
“You’re able to support people and animals in their time of need, and reduce euthanasia and suffering. It’s exhausting work but the payoff is great.” She continued, “What you can accomplish in 6 days you couldn’t do in a year at a regular shelter.”
Many volunteers also described the experience as recharging, and Dr. Peek whole-heartedly agreed. We have a feeling the next one will be just as successful.
Spayathon for Puerto Rico is a groundbreaking initiative to provide essential vaccinations and spay/neuter procedures of the highest quality for 20,000 cats and dogs at no cost to pet owners across the Commonwealth by May 2019. Learn more