Round 5 of SpayathonTM for Puerto Rico, a strategic initiative that aims to reduce pet overpopulation on the island, concludes today. As always, it’s been a joyful but incredibly busy time for our staff and volunteers who are working round the clock at seven clinics to bring free high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter and vaccine services to animals in underserved areas.

As with the previous four Spayathon events we’ve conducted since June 2018, we are seeing an enormous response from residents. The demand at each of the clinics is so high that people have been lining up the night before to get their beloved companion animals seen by our veterinarians. Many of the animals are getting medical care for the first time in their lives. It’s an incredible display of devotion, love and the bond between people and their pets.

Among the animals we have seen at the clinic in Humacao are Sandy and Rose, two puppies who were part of an unexpected litter found in the streets of Fajardo by a local woman. She is taking care of them as she tries to find them a new home and was eager to get all 10 puppies spayed/neutered and vaccinated so she can get them adopted easily. She was thrilled when someone waiting in line offered to adopt one of the pups.

Another man, Hector, brought his dog, Tyson, to the clinic in Ponce. Tyson was once owned by a dogfighter and Hector adopted him five years ago, after the original owner moved away. He has been wanting to get Tyson neutered for a few years, but couldn’t afford it. Hector made the 30-minute drive to the clinic to get Tyson neutered and vaccinated, and is now hoping to get the dog some training to help him better interact with other dogs.

Then there was Lucky the cat, a sweet little guy who had a rough start to his life. Lucky was discovered by his mom when he was just a few weeks old. The kitten had an injured leg and a giant hernia. Lucky went through two surgeries at the time but he still needed to be neutered, and this week he was, at the Cidra clinic of Spayathon.

Also at the Humacao clinic were Bobby and Summer, two former stray dogs who struck up an instant friendship. Bobby was trying to survive by himself on the streets when his mom found him and adopted him, and Summer, too, was a tiny puppy living by herself when her dad found her.

The stories go on and on, and each is more heartwarming than the next.

The demand at each of the clinics is so high that people have been lining up the night before to get their beloved companion animals seen by our veterinarians.

We are excited to help animals like Tyson, Bobby, Summer and Lucky, and keep them in loving homes with their parents. Spayathon for Puerto Rico is the largest coalition effort ever to conduct spay/neuter and vaccination clinics for free and it involves 28 national and international organizations led by the Humane Society of the United States, with support from the Puerto Rico government. By the time the clinics, which opened on November 3, close tonight, we would have provided services to a whopping 44,000 animals, including nearly 8,000 in round 5 alone. Along with spay/neuter surgery, each animal we see gets essential vaccinations, including shots for rabies and leptospirosis. Our goal with Spayathon is to alter more than 85,000 dogs and cats by May 2021.

We are also making great progress toward our ultimate goal, of reducing pet overpopulation in Puerto Rico. By our calculations, the 35,000 animals we spayed, neutered and vaccinated have prevented the birth of more than 200,000 animals in a single year. By year four, the number of births prevented would have climbed to more than a million.

That’s a million animals who are not struggling to survive on the streets, or entering shelters, or being euthanized because they cannot find a home. At many municipal shelters in Puerto Rico the euthanasia rate is 90 percent or higher, and by providing essential services to pet owners who would not usually have access to veterinary resources, we are preventing more homelessness.

In addition to the services we are providing for pets, we are also training veterinary professionals on the island in conducting high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter. After Spayathon concludes, all medical equipment will be donated to Puerto Rico’s first ever high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics.

We are grateful to the government of Puerto Rico, to the veterinary teams providing services at Spayathon, including Emancipet, ViDAS, Veterinarians for Puerto Rico, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at The University of Florida and Helping Paws Across Borders, and to our on-ground partners, including the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, the Sato Project, the Puerto Rico Dog Fund, Friends of Culebra Animals, Wild at Heart Foundation, Our Big Fat Caribbean Rescue, Santuario de Animales San Francisco de Asis and Movimiento Social Pro Bienestar Animal.

We are proud to be part of this program that is making such a tangible difference to animal lives, and strengthening both the culture of pet-keeping and the infrastructure to support it across the island, which bodes well for the future of humane values in Puerto Rico. When we began Humane Puerto Rico in 2015, we made a commitment to the commonwealth and the tens of thousands of unowned dogs and cats who roam its streets, as well as to its people. The challenges have multiplied since the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, but we have stayed the course -- for the sake of the animals and the people who love them -- and will continue to do so in years to come.

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