Veterinarian Kecia Valdez (right) operates on a dog while a veterinarian student watches during a World Vets program in Belize earlier this month. Valdez was part of a group of veterinarians on a mission to spay and neuter animals in remote parts of the world.
A Tracy veterinarian recently traveled to Central America to take part in a neuter and spay program to help cut the unwanted dog and cat population around the world.
Veterinarian Kecia Valdez of Jules Veterinary Center is known around Tracy for her annual free feral cat spay and neutering program. But during the week of March 10 through 17, Valdez volunteered with the World Vets International Aid for Animals program and took her love for animals to Belize. There, she teamed with a group of veterinarians and assistants to provide veterinary care in a remote region of the country.
“Last summer I was thinking on a global spectrum, what else can I do?” she said. “A friend said check the website for Doctors Without Borders. I picked a week, and that was the trip I picked.”
World Vets is a non-government organization that provides veterinary aid, training and disaster relief around the globe. Its mission statement is to make veterinary care accessible to the 99 percent of animals in developing countries that never see a veterinarian. Operating with more than 3,500 volunteers, the group has projects across the world, including teams working in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Tanzania.
Valdez, along with five veterinarians and eight ancillary people, worked on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye. Although it’s a beautiful tropical island, Valdez said the canine population can seem overwhelming.
“Dogs were everywhere. It’s crazy. You walk 100 yards and pass probably 10 dogs,” the majority being strays, she said.
Working with a local humane society based on the island, the aid group set up shop inside a small three-room building. Each room served a specific purpose, including post-operative, pre-operative and one room for five simultaneous surgeries.
Dogs recuperate after undergoing spay and neutering operations in a makeshift veterinarian hospital in Belize. The operations were part of a program to lower the population of unwanted pets in remote countries. Volunteers at the event included Veterinarian Kecia Valdez of Jules Veterinary Center on West 11th Street.
Each day local people would travel across the island in golf carts picking up strays and owned canines that would be administered the free service, she said. Once they arrived at the makeshift hospital, the dogs underwent a variety of treatments. Within a few hours, they were back on the streets. To monitor the strays, residents were asked to watch out for the dogs they would often feed.
At the conclusion of the trip, the team had performed 189 dog and 10 cat surgeries. Valdez anticipated that the group would have helped more animals, since her office averages 150 to 200 cats per day during her annual feral cat event, but the logistics in a foreign country made it a bit more difficult.
It’s a slower pace with island life, she said, often referring it to as “Belize time,” but her group did surpass the team before them by more than 60 dogs.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “We were all trying to do something to help, all outside of their comfort zone. The people we met there were so happy you were even there. It was nice to be really appreciated.”
Although she spent thousands of dollars of her own money to take part in the program, Valdez said she would do it again, because “it makes a small difference, but it’s better than no difference.”