SLIDESHOW: VIDAS clinic in Playa del Carmen spares community from unwanted dogs and cats

It is such an incredible experience to be part of the VIDAS clinic. Even though hurricane Ernesto slowed one of clinic days (and admittedly, was a tropical storm when he arrived), it didn’t stop VIDAS, the IFAW-supported Coco’s Cat Rescue, and tons of volunteers from spaying and neutering  1,130 dogs and cats in 6 days.

VIDAS stands for Veterinarios Internacionales Dedicados a Animales Sanos (International Veterinarians Dedicated to Healthy Animals) and which acronym in Spanish also mean “lives”.

They have been coming to Playa del Carmen and surrounding areas of the Mayan Riviera to help control the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens, and the 2012 clinics marked their 10th anniversary. More than 20 veterinarians, vet students and vet techs pay their air ticket, meals and various other expenses to make this happen.  They come in work-vacations and give most of their time here safely spaying and neutering dogs and cats.

IFAW supported this clinic through our partner in Playa del Carmen - Coco’s Cat Rescue - with various expenses such as oxygen tanks to support animals during surgery, and supplies and payment of services to keep everything running smoothly.

Of course we were there assisting everyday in whatever was needed - medical support, translation, answering owners’ questions, outreach to the community, radio and tv interviews to promote the clinic, education, transporting of dogs to the recovery room, supplying odds and ends, setting up, packing up and getting ready in case Hurricane Ernesto hit and the school was needed for shelter…… We were so busy that I lost 4 lbs in 10 days!

With the human population of Playa del Carmen growing so quickly, particularly in the last decade, the birth of dogs and cats has been growing constantly as well.

It is wonderful to have so many animals sterilized in one week, but the need for spay/neuter services is huge and offering year-round sterilization services to the community is critical. Coco’s Cat Rescue is a permanent low cost spay and neuter clinic in Playa del Carmen, and to those who are unable to pay the low cost fee they provide free sterilizations.  All of the local animal rescue groups benefit immensely from their work as they too utilize their services.

Spay and neuter will continue to be an important tool in addressing Playa del Carmen’s dog and cat issues, but these services alone won’t solve the community’s problems or end the suffering of dogs and cats.

In order to create lasting change for dogs and cats, Playa del Carmen needs a management plan that is multi-faceted and addresses the root causes of why animals are unwanted, improperly cared for, and suffering.  IFAW is working on developing just such a plan.

For example, it’s important to know why people are not spaying and neutering their pets -  maybe it’s because they lack spay and neuter services, their beliefs forbid them to spay their animals, they might not understand all the benefits that come with it, they don’t trust the veterinary services, or they are not willing or not able to pay for them.  If we know why people are treating and caring for animals in a certain way, we are better able to tailor programs and services that will ultimately change attitudes and behavior for the better.   

We are currently working to address some of the immediate problems (abandonment, accidents, etc) but are also working hard to understand the community – its concerns and needs.  By listening to and engaging the community, we learn so much about how to target interventions - from education to mobile veterinary services. 

As IFAW’s dog and cat project in Playa del Carmen continues to develop, we’ll keep you posted on what we are doing to address the welfare of companion animals in this unique community.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy