Since 2009 the Association for Aid and Support of the Creole Dogs has held 50 spay neuter clinics for dogs and cats in the Caribbean. Just as long we have been asked by advanced students and young vets if they could participate to gain experience. So far we always had to say no because operatives in poor developing countries are the field of experienced surgeons capable to spay and neuter as many animals in poor health conditions as possible with very basic equipment at places that have very little to do with a normal surgery but often demand a lot of creativity and improvisation, and to give these animals the best medical care possible under these circumstances. It is very hard work for which our vets sacrifice their vacations, impossible to teach young colleagues at the same time. Also the ways of doing things in the field differ a lot from the practices of veterinarian clinics in industrialized countries. But there is a great demand for possibilities to gain practical surgical experience and so we started 2018 to plan a new project: 2 weeks of spay neuter operatives especially for beginners without the goal to operate a great number of animals, taking place in clinics with – as much as possible - a similar medical standard as the vet practices and clinics here under the direction of experienced surgeons who don’t operate themselves but only teach so that their young colleagues can learn and practice spay neuter techniques without any stress and pressure. In February 2020 we were finally ready.
Dra. Gisselle Santos who had participated 2010 in the first educational clinic in Sosúa, today a very experienced surgeon herself, offered her clinic Hacienda Urbana for the operative. 6 students from Austria who had just completed their final exams at the University of Vienna took part in the operative: Kerstin Glavassevich, Jasmin Hamid, Helena Kovacova, Michelle Latzko,Agnes Lutz, Katharina Muhm.
The teaching vet was Sebastian Ganz from the clinic for obstetrics, gynecology and andrology of the Justus-Liebig University Gießen. The operative, financed by donations of the participants’ parents, was a great success. They spayed and neutered 81 instead of the planned 60 animals.
Kerstin Glavassevich: „ I had wanted to take part in a spay neuter project already for a very long time but it proved to be a real challenge to find a project. By chance the Association for Aid and Support of the Creole Dogs was brought to my attention by travelling vet, an Austrian horse vet well-known on Instagram. I was lucky; they just planned their first spay neuter project for students and only 2 days after our last exam the adventure began. On 02/02/2020 we, 6 girls from Vienna flew to the Dominican Republic via Amsterdam and Atlanta, our teacher Sebastian Ganz flew from Frankfurt via Atlanta. 22 hours later, at midnight, we arrived in Santiago, met Sebastian for the first time and were welcomed cheerfully and with incredible warmth and the typical Dominican joie de vivre by Dra. Giselle Santos Diaz, her husband and 10 students. In Gisselle’s clinic we were going to spay and neuter during the following 2 weeks
They came with 2 cars to pick us up. It was a two and a half hour drive from Santo Domingo to Santiago.
We stayed in an apartment that belongs to Gisselle. It had a kitchen equipped with everything one could wish for…
…a living room with arm chairs, couch and a big dining table, a balcony, two bath rooms – again stocked with everything one could think of including towels and hairdryer - 3 bed rooms, one of them for our teacher and the other two for the students, air-conditioning and fans. There was a laundry room with washing machine and dryer. Supermarkets and restaurants are nearby…
…as well as the Circus, a street food market with a great choice of local fruits and vegetables.
The „Monument“, one of the main attractions of Santiago, is only 10 minutes’ walk from the apartment.
006 It takes about 15 minutes to get from the apartment to Gisselle’s clinic Hacienda Urbana. In the morning we went with UBER.
In the evening we took conchos ( public transportation ) or Gisselle drove us home.
There are several large supermarkets as well as bancs to exchange money on the way to the clinic.
On the first day we were busy with unpacking all the materials and medication we had brought with us for the operative. Hacienda Urbana is a small animal clinic equipped with everything needed from providing primary health care up to treating fractures with osteosynthesis with a strong focus on spay neuter. Gisselle teaches also at the university and there are always some of her students working with her to gain practical experience. A secretary and an employee who takes care of in-patients and shelter animals work there as well.. In the clinic there are the reception, a ward, an examination room…
…and two surgeries with operating tables, side tables and everything else needed for operations.
and we could use both of them.
Head lamps and handy lights were used when needed to increase the existing light.
There is also a grooming parlour in the clinic building.
Outside there is an area…
…with many kennels…
…and large fenced-in spaces…
…for about 40 animals.
In this shelter area…
…is also the room with the microscope and the laboratory machine. Here we set up our prepping station for large dogs.
Small dogs and cats were prepared directly in the surgeries.
Post-operative patients in the ward.
The project lasted two weeks. We worked from Monday to Friday and had the weekends off.
During the week we worked every day from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, 6 students and 1 vet. We worked in 3 teams.
2 students spayed and neutered…
…and one student anesthetized the animals.
We took turns at preparing the patients for surgery…
…so that we all could practice every procedure often enough.
We had half an hour lunch break before we continued. For lunch we had either chicken and rice or pizza. The food was ordered by the clinic staff.
027We spayed and neutered 81 animals in total during these 10 days.
We operated tom cats…
…starting right away with a pyometra,…
Kerstin: „The first testicles I removed all on my own!“
This bitch had a glandular-cystic hyperplasia of the endometrium, the preliminary stage of pyometra.
And this bitch had aborted her litter only a few days ago, so her uterus had still an enormous size.
We also treated injuries like bite wounds, diarrhea, skin issues…
We learnt to do everything ourselves; the introduction of intravenous catheters…
…the preparation and application of medication, the calculation of the proper dosages…
…and surgery. It was the best medical training we ever had. But we were never left on our own.
In the beginning the vet operated every tom cat and every queen, every male dog and every bitch together with one of us while the others watched and learnt.
Afterwards the vet watched how we were doing, answered questions and helped when it was necessary. Sebastian was a wonderful teacher who taught us a lot and gave us an enormous confidence.
The clinic staff were very nice, always helpful and took us around in our time off to show us things tourists would never see. When we had problems or questions we could always ask Dra Gisselle for help and she was also always there to support Sebastian when he had to help more than one student team at the same time. We felt as if we were part of a big family.
Sebastian Ganz with Dra. Gisselle Santos and his students.
The neighbourhood of our apartment was very safe. One could walk on food to markets and restaurants without problems. In general it’s safer not to walk around at night alone in the Dominican Republic.
For future student clinics:
We had brought all materials from Austria; gauze bandages, adhesive tape, gauze dressing pads, gloves, syringes, needles estimated for 60 animals. Sebastian had brought the instruments and endotracheal tubes. But we did more animals as expected so we could have used more material, especially sterile gauze pads and drapes.
Sebastian had to observe 3 teams which was sometimes a bit difficult when we all asked for his help at the same time. It would be better to have a second vet along next time. We wouldn’t have needed as many infusion giving sets as we had brought along for the calculated quantity of sodium chloride and we also couldn’t have given more infusions during the post-operative care as we did because we lacked the time and some animals couldn’t be touched after waking up. The ordered Isoflurane didn’t arrive in time and when it came the anesthesia machine wasn’t working. We suggest to order Propofol instead of Isoflurane next time.
Tubes used mostly were between size 5 and 7 and we also could have done with more blue intravenous catheters than we had.
We got to know some of Gisselle’s students and with them we enjoyed Santiago’s night life on Friday nights, drove to the beach of Sosúa on Saturdays, went whale watching in Samaná on Sundays and visited the small island Cayo Levantado known as “Bacardi island” from the commercial produced here in the seventies by the rum company.
It is really worth to watch the sunset in Santiago…
…from the Monument in the town centre.
Santiago in the last light of the day.
After the operative ended we all stayed for a few days of vacation. Some of us went to La Romana to an All-inclusive resort. Helena travelled to the interior on her own and went horseback riding, hiking and paragliding. The Dominican Republic has a lot to offer to travelers and when one participates in such a project one should stay on and get to know the country.
We highly recommend this spay neuter project to other students because we learnt incredibly much. To take part in this was one of our best decisions ever. We have gained a lot of confidence spaying and neutering on our own and also got a lot of practical experience in prepping, post-operative care and dealing with frightened animals.
Urban life in the Dominican Republic is loud, busy and the traffic appears to be chaotic at first but one gets used to that very quickly. Dominicans are very friendly and helpful. Here are a lot of good, inexpensive restaurants and with UBER one gets around easily. This journey was a wonderful experience for all of us and we wouldn’t have wanted to miss this, not for the world!
Sebastian Ganz, the clinic team and the 6 students who received a certificate of the Hacienda Urbana at the end of the operative. Back in Austria, the campaign was also recognized as internship by the University of Vienna.
We, the Association for Aid and Support of the Creole Dogs, will try to continue to offer such projects also to many other students in the future, provided there are enough students who want to participate - 6 are ideal – and vets willing to direct such clinics and teach their young colleagues.
On 02/21 Claudia Bretthauer and her small team flew to Grenada for the 4th time.
From left to right Steffi, Claudia, Alex, Annika, Heike and Svea.
The clinic was held this time at the GSPCA shelter in St. George’s, the capital of Grenada.
Already early in the morning of the 22nd the small surgery was full with waiting patients.
On the first day Claudia spayed 19 bitches, 2 of them pregnant,…
…neutered 14 males, one of them with a testicle hidden in the groin area,…
…and she spayed 6 cats, one of them pregnant,…
and neutered a tom cat.
As usual, Ronaldo and his helper brought the animals…
…and soon also the shady place in front of the shelter was full with boxes and cages.
Steffi and Svea carry a patient to the surgery.
11Heike, here in love with a puppy,…
…and otherwise tirelessly cleaning instuments.
Each animal got 4 injections: Anesthesia, Antibiotics, pain killer,
a shot against worms and parasites, and was tattooed.
On 02/23 Claudia Bretthauer spayed and neutered 19 bitches, 11 males,…
…8 cats and 7 tom cats. 3 bitches and 2 cats were pregnant.
One bitch had pyometra, 2 of the male dogs were cryptorchides.
9 bitches, 8 males,…
…4 cats and 1 tom cat were spayed and neutered on 02/24. 2 bitches and 3 cats were pregnant . One bitch had pyometra, 3 animals came with tick fever over 40°C.
This day the team finished at lunch time and took the afternoon off.
They visited St. George’s…
…strolled around like tourists,…
…went to the beach and swam.
Sun set in St. George’s.
The next morning patients were already waiting.
…10 males, 5 cats and 2 tom cats were spayed and neutered on 02/25.
Among the boxes with waiting animals,…
…also those with patients sleeping off the anesthesia after surgery.
On 02/26. Claudia Bretthauer spayed and neutered 3 bitches, 4 males, 3 cats and 8 tom cats.
One tom cat was a cryptorchid.
On 02/27 16 bitches, 15 males, 8 cats and 4 tom cats were spayed and neutered including this very young female puppy.
She will never have babies.
Of course there were also sick patients needing treatment like this dog with mange…
…and that one with a badly injured ear…
…full of ticks.
On 02/ 28 Claudia Bretthauer spayed and neutered 5 bitches, a male and a cat in the morning.
Then it was time, after a total of 204 surgeries, for the ride to the airport. One week is short!
On 02/29/20 the team was back in Frankfurt.
This was our last operative in Grenada. The GSPCA have contracted 2 vets on a long-term basis and we are confident that they can now organize their own field clinics whereas our vets are needed more urgently at other places.
Already on 03/22/20 Claudia Bretthauer is flying to Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic, accompanied by the vets Sonja Krämer and Julia Wöhrle. Up to 300 animals are waiting there for them.
This was our first cooperative with a large American veterinary organization. The goal was to spay and neuter 500 animals.
All we knew so far about American organizations was that they send large teams that stay only a few days whereas we work with small teams that stay one or two weeks. But we hadn’t been completely aware of what a logistic challenge it would be for our Dominican partners to receive, accommodate and cater for 20 people.
Caribbean Spay Neuter sent a team of 7 surgeons and 11 vet technicians and non-medical volunteers and raised the funds for medication and materials.
Our task was to finance transportation back and forth to the airport, accommodation and food and Emily Espinosa from Cat Lovers RD organized the clinic locally with her volunteers.
Preparations began in July 2019. Already the search for a shipping company to ship materials from the US to the Dominican Republic wasn’t easy and took a lot of time. The greatest difficulty was to make sure that enough anesthesia would be available for the expected number of surgeries. Permits were needed for both export of the drugs from the US and import into the Dominican Republic. The necessary documents couldn’t be handed in in time and the alternative to purchase the medicaments in the Dominican Republic in such a quantity proved equally difficult, a problem that was solved in the last minute.
Mara Brasola had arranged accommodation with breakfast at the Neptuno’s Refugio, a really beautiful hotel, where already Anja Heß and her team have stayed in 2018 and 2019. Here the American vets with the hotel’s owner, Doña Rita.
Scarlett Grillo met the team at the airport and brought them to the hotel.
Emily Espinosa and Mara Brasola had found a beautiful location
for the clinic very close to the hotel.
Here we want to commemorate the late mayor of Boca Chica who had been very supportive of the animal welfare project Boca Chica and who had wanted to provide the location for this operative personally.
We see in general a very positive attitude towards our project in the community of Boca Chica which makes us very happy. During the preparations for this operative Emily Espinosa was contacted by two restaurant owners with an issue of cat overpopulation that they wanted to solve with spay and neuter. In December our vet Dr. Josef Beisl flew to the Dominican Republic and spayed and neutered 145 cats.
His Dominican colleagues continued the work until the goal of 200 spays was reached. The photo of cat No 200 reached us shortly before the American vets arrived.
The restaurant owners, Bocana and the catering service Ivelisse, kept their promise and donated each night foods for 20 people from which a cook prepared delicious dishes:
Mara Brasola provided lunch.
The clinic was set up on 02/12.
Surgeries took place from 02/13 – 16.
20 tables provided space for prepping…
Instrument sterilization was set up on every table.
The first day 87 animals were spayed and neutered.
The second day 103 animals were done…
…the third day 108…
…and 88 on the last day.
Everywhere sleeping animals, also outside…
…near the reception area.
Elsa, a Dominican volunteer, received the patients and filled in the forms for each animal.
The successful work of Emily Espinosa, her Dominican Scouts
and the two previous operatives of our vets were noticeable.
People came in droves and brought their animals.
They arrived in cars…
…and in cardboard boxes.
Many of them were very young.
Dra Lourdes Ripley lent the kennels.
They were large enough to hold several dogs at a time.
The dog catchers of Mara Brasola did a fantastic job.
Especially this gentleman deserves mentioning.
He brought more than fifty dogs with his truck.
Also the members of Rescate Nefertiti volunteered…
…and participated in animal transportation.
Apart from spay and neuter there were the usual issues to deal with;
pregnancies and pyometras…
…and skin diseases like ringworm.
The sign reminds that this disease is contagious.
This little bitch had a benign mammary gland tumor which was removed.
And although this was a clinic for dogs…
…there were lots of cats among the patients.
Also Moyse, the dog of Neptuno’s Refugio was neutered.
He recovered quickly from the surgery.
Doña Rita loves her dog very much. The hotel‘s cats were already spayed. Neptuno’s Refugio will appear shortly on our site Animal-friendly hotels.
There were also some happy endings.
This young bitch was brought in a miserable state.
She recovered quickly…
…and became everybody’s darling, too cute to be sent back to the street.
She travelled with one of the vets to the US.
And this tiny puppy, only a few weeks old, was found at the beach,
showing already signs of mange. It is now in foster care.
The goal of 500 spays wasn’t reached but also 386 animals that don’t reproduce anymore will be noticed very positively in the community of Boca Chica.
A great Thank you to Dra Lourdes Ripley who does herself many clinics in the Dominican Republic with her organization Pets Breeding Control and who didn’t only supply kennels but came to replace an American surgeon who hadn’t been able to come. And of course also a huge Thank you to everybody else who participated in this operative either by donating or working!Summing up we must say that despite the great result of 386 spays and neuters the cooperation with such large teams is not suitable for us and will remain an exception. The organization of such clinics and the accommodation of groups that size, even for a few days, are a great strain for our local partners and we are well-advised to continue our work with our small teams of German vets that stay for one or two weeks, whose transportation and accommodation can be managed far more easily and who can operate in a lot more places because they adapt much easier to given circumstances. Also financially operatives with such large groups are a challenge. Without additional benefactors on the location like hotels, restaurants, companies that sponsor accommodation, meals and transport costs can easily explode. Our own financial participation in this operative remained within the limits of our budget but adding up what all participating parties invested we arrive at a price per surgery of more than double the cost we usually have.
How will things continue in Boca Chica? The operative has shown that there is progress but a lot remains still to be done.
One of the most important things is to form an own, small but efficient animal welfare organization in Boca Chica so that Emily Espinosa can continue to work towards her goals; reducing animal overpopulation, abandoning and strays by providing spay and neuter, teaching appropriate ways of pet keeping in the community, taking care of the beach animals in a feeding and monitoring program.
To realize all this will take (many) years. We will accompany this process with annual spay neuter clinics.