Spay and neuter clinic strengthens Cozumel's community of pet owners

One of the younger volunteers at the spay and neuter clinic in Cozumel. The International Fund for Animal Welfare works closely with communities to understand their needs and develop tailored solutions to problems with dogs and cats, particularly when the community’s perception is that the problem is simply that they have “too many”.  

As part of our work in Cozumel, Mexico, we conducted a survey to collect information on community attitudes and pet care practices, and found that residents agreed that one of their main problems is unwanted litters of puppies and kittens and not knowing what to do with the offspring when they’re born.

As a result and with IFAW’s support, the Humane Society of Cozumel (HSC) increased the number of sterilizations they performed, and they continue to have a spay and neuter service for the whole community in exchange for a donation fee - whatever people can afford.

While some pet owners are able to donate, the majority simply can´t afford to give any money.

Those who receive free spay and neuter services for their pets are able to spread the word and help improve animal welfare in their community in other ways like Don Alberto, who lent his big garage to hold a spay and neuter clinic; and like Angelica, who coordinated the appointments beforehand and made sure everyone understood the pre-surgical requirements for their animals - like fasting and bringing them in to the clinic in a safe way.

The cat in the picture was brought in a classic market bag, which allows the cat to be calmer around animals and people, which also helps prevent escapes, but is well ventilated for the hot weather.

Also, getting the word out and educating people is still an everyday job.

One of the cats in a classic market bag.For example, pet owners are told to keep their dogs within their property, but it is important that they are shown that it is better to fence a part of their property than to tie their dog, and if there is no other way, then how to keep a dog tied in a humane and proper way.

It has been some months now that HSC has been visiting Las Fincas, one of the poorest –if not the poorest- neighborhood in Cozumel.  Mario (HSC’s trainer and community coordinator) and Andrea (an expatriate from Canada that volunteers for HSC) are a very good team who have been visiting Las Fincas and educating the community on adequate guardianship.  

As a result, residents have asked their dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered. 

Many trips have been undertaken to Las Fincas in order to take animals to the clinic, have them spayed or neutered and then returned to their families. In addition, a great deal of time and effort has been put into providing follow-up after surgery, which consists of making sure that animals’ surgical incisions are without infection and healing properly,  and that animals are not licking the area too much. But the number of owners asking for their pets to be sterilized was bigger that what Mario and Andrea could fit in the truck to bring back to the HSC’s clinic, so an on-site campaign was needed due to the high demand.

I am happy to report that the campaign was a huge success!

The Association of Veterinarians of Cozumel was involved for the first time in this type of event, Dr. Julio, Dr. Lilia and Dr. Omar were hands on with HSC vets and staff as well as many volunteers without whose help there is no way a total of 85 animals (70 dogs and 15 cats) would have been spayed and neutered.

Owners helping to keep their dogs calm.Every animal went home with a collar and ID tag. Owners were asked to remain with their dogs and cats, helping with their recovery. Animals awake much faster when they are being shown affection and talked to, so this is also a great opportunity to do things like cut their nails, clean their ears, and remove any ticks that might be spotted.  

This is especially important for owners to do as it makes them part of the solution and take more responsibility for the animals under their care.

This also saves a lot of time for personnel who can do other important things rather than just be dedicated to monitoring animals so they may recover properly. The pet owners actually work alongside medical supervisors, and if the owner detects something that might be wrong they can immediately let the supervisor know.

There is also opportunity to ask questions about behavior, proper nutrition and everyday issues.

Owners also talk to each other about their pets and bond with each other.

Involving owners in spay/neuter clinic in this way not only improves the relationship they have with their pets, but it cultivates a stronger bond between neighbors and therefore, the community.


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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters