Two weeks ago Saga Humane Society sent a little boy over to our clinic with his female puppy to be spayed free of charge. His other two male puppies were being neutered at Saga that day. We did an examination and a blood test on the puppy, but we decided that she was not healthy enough to undergo the operation that morning. The puppy was dewormed and sent home with two weeks worth of doxycycline pills, which I donated to the cause. Today was the two week mark, so we called the boy’s family about the spay surgery. They said they did not have transportation so we offered to go pick up the puppy. Then they said they did not want the operation after all. They say this is because their other two puppies were very painful after their neuter surgeries.
Now if you are a vet in San Pedro you get accustomed to hearing a lot of excuses, and my B.S. meter was screaming on this one. I don’t believe this family’s story. Something has made them decide that they do not want their female dog spayed. Do they want the puppies? Do they want to sell the puppies? Did someone tell them that spaying her would be dangerous or cause some other unwanted side effect? I have no idea, but this does illustrate the difficulties we have here in regard to spaying and neutering. It is definitely not as easy as some people think. It also illustrates the importance of educating the public. Donating money is great, but I believe that no amount of money can replace the value of volunteers hitting the streets in communities and providing one on one education.
Our second challenge, that many do not understand, is euthanasia solution. It is not available in Belize. Which means it is certainly not cheap to come by. This month I will be renewing all my licenses which allow me to import euthasol. This will come to a personal cost of 600 U.S. dollars. And this does not include the cost of my plane ticket (the DEA will only allow me to carry it myself), the cost of the drug itself, and import permits and duties.
So in reality, the reason the laws of Belize and other third world countries promote poisoning street dogs with strychnine is that it is cheap, it is available, and it is easy to administer.
It is going to take a lot of work to avoid strychnine poisoning by the government in the future. It was a very humbling experience appearing on the Morning Show last week, but I learned a lot from it. We are the minority here. This is not our country. We have to respect the laws and understand that this is where the country of Belize is right now. I do not agree with attempting to ruin this country’s tourism over this issue. The mayor did not give the town a warning before he poisoned the dogs for two reasons. One was because legally, he doesn’t have to. The other is that it was a wake-up call. It was a wake-up call to all of us who support humane euthanasia that we are not doing enough. And it was a wake-up call to dog owners that if they do not keep their dogs at home they may be legally poisoned.
All of that said, I do believe that this practice will change over time and become more humane. Strychnine poisoning is cruel, and Belizeans are not a cruel people. When I was on the Morning Show the mayor gave the example of Hol Chan. He pointed out that this used to be only a fishing village. NO ONE wanted to protect Hol Chan as a marine preserve for snorkeling and diving. But look at Hol Chan now. Just let someone try to break the laws at Hol Chan and see what Belizeans will do to them, he told us.
Saga Humane Society has a good plan. Please everyone who cares about the humane treatment of animals go out and help them. While you are out there collecting dogs talk to people about spaying and neutering. And if you can, bring the San Pedro Animal Hospital a pet to alter free of charge. It is only by all of us putting in our own time and energy that the practice of poisoning dogs with strychnine can change.