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October 4, 2013

Training Veterinarians in the Philippines

Humane Society International

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by Keren Nazareth

HSI has now (in partnership with Cebu City and Southwestern University) been doing Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release training in the Philippines for two years, with 99 participants so far. During the most recent session, held in mid-August, 18 trainees sterilized more than 300 dogs.

Such practice is necessary to hone hands-on skills, as most veterinarians in government jobs are administrators and spend comparatively little time in the field. The hope is that the vets will take their new knowledge back home and share it with others.

Help us expand our innovative, life-saving street dog programs.

An accidental advocate

One graduate of—and now trainer for—the program is Mary Anne. Division Head of Animal and Health Production for the city of Malaybalay, she says she joined the training because she was sent for it and adds that she had previously had experience only with large animals.

“I started out a bit casual about the whole thing, but every day, Dr.Chawla would come over to my table and compliment me on my technique. One day, he told me that the current record [for completing a sterilization procedure] was 18 minutes, and if I really wanted to, I could break it. I did. My best time is 16 minutes, and no new trainee has yet done better.”

Inspired, she used her position to start making changes, including carrying out an educational campaign to raise awareness about rabies and spay/neuter. “There were myths surrounding this that I really wanted to dispel," she explains. "People would say that an animal's personality would change if it were fixed.” She started first with city employees and then continued to the barangay (village) level. At the City Hall, she arranged the first talk ever given about rabies for the officers. In the villages, she organized assemblies to speak with pet owners and other members of the public.

She was also able to get an ordinance in place to initiate a spay and neuter program—with a budget of PHP 500, 000 to sterilize both roaming and owned dogs. She secured free suture from a private veterinarian and managed to bring the cost per surgery down to PHP 150.

There are only two vets in her division, though others are available to help by appointment. Slowly, attitudes are changing and support for this work is growing.

Her facility has developed a positive reputation and many people walk in to have their pets attended to. One recent example is Lucky, an 11-year-old terrier who was suffering from pyometra. Dr. Richard carried out the surgery and Lucky survived, to the great joy of her owner, Rebecca, who’d been unable to hide her tears when she’d brought her in.

Extended reach

In addition to our work in Cebu City, HSI is also active on the islands of Bohol, Camiguin and Marinduque. Local political leaders are supportive; on Bohol, our program launch was attended by the governor, mayor and provincial vet, along with many members of the community.  A two-day clinic was organized for local pet owners in the lead-up to the launch to help create awareness of the initiative and the need for it, with more than 120 people signing up to attend. And each village has volunteers who continue to spread the word about spay/neuter on an ongoing basis. Please donate to support our efforts to help street dogs.