Our Community - Bronwen Eastwood - "The Doctor Doolittle of San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 13            March 29, 2001

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Dr. Bron Eastwood

A true friendship is rare and should be cherished and well cared for. But a true friend can also be right in front of you without you knowing it. Does the phrase "man's best friend" sound familiar? A pet is said to be loyal to its owner and will remain by your side during your best and worst moments. A pet, for many, is thought of as a member of the family and should be considered as such. It needs love and attention and it will reciprocate the same. Unfortunately, not all people feel this way about these creatures, but being domestic animals, they rely on humans for their basic needs. This week we are pleased to introduce a person who has spent a great deal of her time taking care of all types of animals abroad and now in Belize-Dr. Bronwen Eastwood.

    Bronwen Eastwood was born in London, England on January 18th, 1967. From eighteen months old until she was three, Bron lived in Ghana in Africa. Being surrounded by an abundance of beautiful wildlife developed her passion for animals. Although she did not have a lot of pets of her own growing up, she was the type of girl that would tend to any kind of injured wild creature. From that time, Bron realized her calling in life to work with animals. When she returned to London, she completed her elementary and secondary studies. In 1986, Bron enrolled in the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. She completed a five-year program and earned her degree as a Veterinary Surgeon.

    For three years after her certification, Dr. Eastwood was employed at Brighton's Montague Veterinary Clinic in southern England. In 1995, she accepted a wonderful opportunity to work as a veterinarian for eighteen months at the Sinai Wildlife Project in Egypt. She particularly enjoyed this area of the world because of the spectacular scuba diving. Upon her return to England, Dr. Eastwood was employed for a year at an animal clinic in Hampshire before taking a job in Kingston, London at a practice that was "going under" financially. She took on this challenge and in a short time managed to raise the clinic and its profits to new heights. This accomplishment was very satisfying to the young doctor and, for a time, she considered becoming a partner in this enterprise. Instead, Dr. Bron made plans to work part of the year in London and the remainder of the time abroad, in India. None of these plans became reality though, when a love interest happened into her life. The doctor met Maarten Hoffmann, a businessman with future plans of relocating to Belize. Dr. Bron opted to join him in his new venture and in November of 1998, the couple arrived on Ambergris Caye. She immediately fell in love with the island and applied for her veterinary license but found it necessary to travel back to England for short periods because she missed her work with the animals.

    Back in Belize, Dr. Bron found herself with free time on her hands. She ended up meeting other residents concerned about the enormous amount of stray animals on the island. With the help of one other resident, the first humane society of Ambergris Caye, SAGA Society, was created. SAGA's aim to find safer, more humane ways to control the animal population led to a membership drive. A Board of Directors was formed and the society was registered with the Government of Belize. Fundraising efforts followed, with the ultimate goal of establishing an animal shelter, and subsequently improving the quality of life for animals on the island. As the Director of SAGA Society, Dr. Bron has contributed much to the welfare of the animals on the island. Many have been rescued from near-death states and through a bit of tender loving care, adopted into happy families. Others have been humanely put to rest when there was no other alternative. From working with the Health Inspector and Town Council to the education of the island's elementary school children, Dr. Eastwood continues to carry out SAGA's mission. She has recently written a grant proposal for the organization, and has mailed it to over 50 animal foundations around the world in hopes of receiving donations for this cause. The doctor is also personally responsible for publishing the first SAGA newsletter. Dr. Eastwood has attended the past two annual meetings of the Humane Society's United States Congress, along with representatives from thirty countries worldwide. Receiving full scholarships to attend both five-day congresses, Dr. Eastwood enhanced her knowledge of ways to control strays, to effectively license animals, and to manage an animal shelter (with practical training). She also received countless educational tools and learned various treatment methods while attending various seminars.

    Dr. Eastwood feels that the main problem on Ambergris Caye is a lack of understanding of the many responsibilities that come with owning a pet. She commented, "People tend to fall in love with puppies and kittens because they're cute, but when they grow up these animals are put to one side and neglected. If you adopt a puppy or kitten, it is yours for possibly ten or more years, not just six months." Dr. Eastwood stated another problem is owners who are not aware of, or simply not taking, preventative measures. "Pets are more at risk for disease here because of the lack of proper vaccination. There is also an attitude that owners don't need to neuter their pets. It is our responsibility to look out for them," stated Dr. Eastwood.

    After two years, Dr. Eastwood has finally been granted her license to practice veterinary medicine in Belize. She has recently opened her own practice and animal clinic. The "Ark" is located in the thatch-roof casita (small house) opposite Ramon's Village on Coconut Drive. Dr. Eastwood now provides clinical examinations, consultations, testing, various surgeries (including spaying and neutering) and many other necessary animal services. A variety of pet medications, accessories and treats are available as well. Clinic hours are Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. As San Pedro's first permanent veterinarian, Dr. Bron says she will do her best to keep prices affordable to encourage more owners to properly care for their pets.

    Apart from her busy schedule with SAGA, Dr. Eastwood has recently been appointed Chairperson for the Animal Control Committee, a branch of the of the San Pedro Advisory Committee. Besides the many turtles, birds and other wildlife she has rehabilitated on the island, she also volunteers her services to the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network (BMMSN). Her work with this program, sponsored by Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, is instrumental in the preservation and rescue of Belize's manatees.

    Dr. Bronwen Eastwood has now made Ambergris Caye her permanent home and is eager to solve the stray cat and dog population problem on the island. Through her veterinary skills and love for all wildlife she has become the "Dr. Doolittle" of "Our Community.

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