Emancipet performs 750 free spay/neuter surgeries in Puerto Rico

Next Spayathon trip will take place Nov. 3-9

Emancipet, the national nonprofit organization that makes high-quality, low-cost veterinary care accessible to all, is part of a historic initiative to spay and neuter more than 20,000 pets in Puerto Rico, where an estimated 300,000 pets are homeless following Hurricane Maria.

A team of 15 Emancipet veterinarians and staff including CEO Amy Mills traveled to Puerto Rico and performed 750 free spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations for pets and their families earlier this month, and will return Nov. 3-9 to do more.

Emancipet is one of six organizations leading the surgical work as part of “Spayathon for Puerto Rico,” developed by the Humane Society of the United States to spay/neuter and vaccinate more than 20,000 pets on the island. The Emancipet team surpassed its goal of serving 500 pets during the seven-day expedition, the first of what will be four trips to the island.

Emancipet is the surgical provider for the Manati sector of the island. The team shipped new, state-of-the-art equipment and set up a makeshift high-volume surgical center on a basketball court inside a local community center without running water or reliable power upon arrival.

Every night hundreds of pet owners camped out in the temporary clinic parking lot hoping to secure a spot for their pets to see the vet the next day.

“There was already a staggering homeless animal population before Hurricane Maria,” Mills says. “It has since exploded to an estimated 300,000 homeless animals because pet owners were forced to evacuate and leave pets behind, and those who are there have even less access to vet care than they did before either because their financial resources are more strained, or in other cases because vet clinics were destroyed in the hurricane.”

Emancipet and its staff are uniquely experienced in hurricane recovery. Its Houston clinic undertook an extraordinary effort following Hurricane Harvey, providing three months of free veterinary care to people and pets impacted by the crisis and its aftermath, including more than 1,000 spay/neuter surgeries and more than 13,500 vaccinations. Emancipet Houston’s branch manager DeWayne Compton, who helped manage the post-Harvey effort, is part of the crew leading Emancipet’s efforts in Puerto Rico.

Mills also has on-the-ground experience with helping people and animals after a crisis. As a volunteer, Mills had a life-changing experience following the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, where she helped families reunite families with pets lost during the storm.

“It is a privilege for Emancipet to continue to be known as a great resource for helping people and pets after natural disasters, and we are deeply honored to partner with such incredible national and international organizations,” Mills says.

Emancipet will return to Manati, Puerto Rico for three additional Spayathon rounds between now and May 2019. The team’s next weeklong trip takes place November 3-9, and the final two trips are February 3-9, 2019 and May 3-9, 2019.

The Spayathon initiative is also aimed at creating more capacity for free and low-cost spay/neuter in Puerto Rico after the conclusion of the project. The HSUS, through a partnership with the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance, is offering high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter training for Puerto Rico veterinarians to increase the number of licensed professionals on the island who can safely provide these services.

In addition, at the conclusion of the 18-month project, Emancipet and the six other surgical partners will all donate their medical equipment and supplies to local veterinarians, to help further improve the animal welfare condition in Puerto Rico.

“It’s not just about this one trip or even these four trips. It’s about building capacity to make a lasting social change for the future,” Mills says. “Right now we are raising money for our next trip so we can provide more services, take additional staff members, bring more supplies and equipment, and do our best to meet the overwhelming need in Puerto Rico.”

The other five surgical lead partners are Veterinarians for Puerto Rico, ViDAS, Helping Paws Across Borders, the Colegio de Médicos Veterinarios de Puerto Rico, and Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University. Each is supported by a ground partner team comprised of local organizations leading the advance work of promoting the available services, translating, checking in patients, and performing other non-surgical volunteer duties. Emancipet’s ground partner team is the Humane Society of Puerto Rico.

The other ground partner teams are The Sato Project, Friends of Culebra Animals, Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue, The Puerto Rico Dog Fund, The Humane Society of Puerto Rico, and Wild at Heart.

Maddie’s Fund® and other non-profit organizations including PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, GreaterGood.org, and The 20/22 Act Society are providing the financial support necessary to carry out this initiative. Additional groups like Banfield Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, and Rescue Bank are providing critical supplies such as vaccines, pet food, and crates.

To learn more or make a donation to help fund Emancipet’s life-saving work in Puerto Rico, visit emancipet.org/puertorico. To keep up with the latest news on this 18-month initiative and join the online conversation, use #spayathon4PR and #emancipetlovesPR.