Here in the United States, we have all heard about the overpopulation issue when it comes to domestic animals. The truths behind our farmed animal industry are being unveiled. Archaic animal rights laws are being challenged. But did you know that on a global basis, the situation is even more dire? Animal welfare laws and regulations are lax or non-existent in developing countries, opening the door for health hazards due to lack of infrastructure and resources when it comes to livestock, working animals and strays. Overpopulation is a major issue; it’s estimated that 75% of the worldwide dog population are strays and even higher for cats. This presents major issues not only from a human health perspective but also has implications on the welfare of the animal. Most developing countries do not have the resources for spaying and neutering their strays and address the issue using methods such as shooting, electrocution and most often, poisoning.
It’s hard to turn a blind eye to what’s happening on the global front once you learn more of the details or see it first-hand. And that’s exactly what happened when Cathy King, a veterinarian here in the USA (and now Founder & CEO of World Vets), was volunteering inMexico in 2002. As fate would have it, she arrived the day after a hurricane warning so instead of performing spay and neuter surgery all week, she was busy moving dogs back to the shelter from a warehouse they were in temporarily due to the storm. Most of those dogs were street dogs and Cathy began to learn how hundreds of thousands of these dogs (and cats) are poisoned every year to control theirpopulation and that spaying and neutering is not common in Mexico or other developing countries. That sparked an idea and when she returned home she shared her story with other vets, inspiring them to want to volunteer. When she began her own practice, her idea along with a donation jar on her clinic’s counter has turned into one of the largest veterinary aid organizations in the world…World Vets. In just six years, they now work in 36 countries on 6 continents and help tens of thousands of animals each year. Their focus began on spay/neuter but their programs now cover nearly every aspect of veterinary medicine and all of their services are free of charge.
World Vets provides programs such as:
- Field services such as spay/neuter procedures, veterinary medicine to equines and disease prevention in livestock.
- Disaster response in times of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and other natural disasters.
- Annual humanitarian missions as the NGO represented on two US Navy aid missions to the South Pacific and Central/South America.
- Veterinary medicine clinics in Latin America to train veterinarians within the developing countries.
I asked Cathy what she thinks World Vets’ biggest accomplishment is, and while there are many to choose from, the fact that they have brought an end to poisoning street animals in several regions of the world is one that has ended so much animal suffering. They have established formal agreements with several government municipalities to end the poisoning and in return, World Vets implements large scale spay/neuter services through their field service program to address the overpopulation issue in a humane way. It was during one of these field service projects in Nicaragua when they met a two pound puppy near death with injuries, parasites and disease. He wasn’t expected to live but with their round the clock care, he showed improvement. They named him Chancho (Spanish for pig) because he looked like a little piglet with a white pot belly and a curly tail. He was a street dog without a home and the volunteers could not leave him behind. Luckily for Chancho, one of the vet students from Mississippi State University brought him back to the US. Coincidentally Cathy was scheduled to speak at MSU and, you guessed it, came home with a new dog. Cathy says “Chanco is the best little dog ever and he serves as a daily reminder to me of why we work so hard to help animals that wouldn’t otherwise have access to veterinary care. Just because they live on the street, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve care. They all deserve care and that’s a driving force behind World Vets.”
In staying true to our mission of giving animals a voice, I asked Cathy what she thinks the animals helped by World Vets would say if they could speak. She said “I guess they would say thank you and please come back again!” And World Vets does come back. They send a team almost every week of the year to countries all over the world to help animals live a better life.
How can you help?
All of their services are free but equipment and supplies are expensive. You can donate to help them continue their great work.
Volunteers are critical to their work. Check the volunteer opportunities and their project schedules if you’d like to volunteer your time.