Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Balancing the Bahamian Cats and Dogs!

In April, I spoke at the Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference in Puerto Rico, about forming effective collaborations in order to organize high volume sterilization clinics. Kim Aranha, the Director of the Board for the Bahamas Humane Society heard my speech and asked me if Animal Balance (AB) could help in the Bahamas. We visited Nassau earlier this month and held a feasibility study. Our goal was to find out what was already happening in regards to animal protection and identify any challenges that needed to be addressed so that the animals could be better protected. 

Kim kindly arranged meetings with The Minister of Agriculture, The Bahamas Veterinary Association, Bahamas Humane Society (BHS), BAARK! and many other animal protection organizations. I also gave an evening presentation to many of these folks explaining who we are and what we hope to achieve. My visit tied in with the BHS Ball, which was a great opportunity to meet many of the supporters of the protection of the Bahamian animals. I was also delighted to be asked to sit next to the Deputy Prime Minister for the Bahamas, the Honorable Brent Symonette, M.P. who appeared not to mind too much to talk about dog testicles with me over dinner!

All these varied events provided the perfect forums to introduce myself, AB and to open discussions over the possibility of an island wide spay and neuter campaign.

What I found was that there is a wealth of compassionate people on the island who want to better protect cats and dogs. Over the years many people have held spay and neuter campaigns and as time has gone on more and more animal protection organizations have been created to address specific issues. While attempts had been made to join forces for large spay and neuter campaigns, it had not happened as yet for a variety of complicated reasons. All these reasons were addressed, any fears were resolved in a very open, honest and direct manner. 

After a week of meetings and discussions, I am delighted to tell you that all the organizations have agreed to collaborate to help with a high volume, high standard sterilization program for the most needy dogs and cats on the Bahamas for August 2012. We are now in the process of writing the Memorandum of Understanding, which will form the basis for our collective work.

The future for the Bahamian cats and dogs just got much sunnier!

I will start recruiting for the Bahamas campaign early in 2012. You are welcome to fill out the application form on our website: If you would like to assist by donating, you are welcome to do so at:

Thanks so much to all the wonderful people of the Bahamas who so kindly allowed us into their world and gave us the opportunity to provide some assistance and advice. Together we are going to save thousands of lives. Thank you.


Emma Clifford
Founder and Director

                                 Emma and the Deputy Prime Minister,  the Honorable 
                                     Brent Symonette, the Bahamas Humane Society Ball.

    BAARK! and Spay Busters
check on the street dogs.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dominican Republic: Animal Balance's September Sterilization Campaign Goes NUTS!

Animal Balance (AB) conducted a high volume, high standard sterilization campaign in Rio San Juan, a small town on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.  The Kimball Family Foundation generously provided a grant for this campaign. 10 volunteer veterinarians, technicians and helpers, kindly paid their own way and gave a week of their precious time to help the animals and community. They worked extraordinarily hard all week long and provided the animals with a very high standard of care. Most of the owners stayed all day and watched their animal go through the clinic. Many thanked us profusely and told us how much this service meant to them.

This was our first week-long campaign in Rio San Juan. We had conducted a day campaign there in April, to see if there was interest and we were inundated with people and animals. The same happened this September. The need is enormous in Rio San Juan and the local community understands the benefits of sterilizing their animals, as we have been holding campaigns in the neighboring town of Cabrera, since 2007, they have seen the positive results and want the same in their town. The community has been asking Animal Balance to help them for a long time and we are now able to provide that service.

In addition to the clinic, we held a humane education program in the local schools of Rio San Juan where a total of 150 students received a lecture by Monica, AB's Humane Education Specialist, and then visited the clinic where they had a question and answer session with an AB veterinarian, Dr. Silvia. Most days it turned into the excited students telling her why people should sterilize their animals and how to treat them kindly; the future generation of adults already understands. 

We also held a humane education workshop each day in Cabrera, in the central park area. The workshops culminated in a ‘Doggie Pageant’ competition, which was really successful. The 5 wining photos of the owners with their animals will now be turned into bus stop posters. The posters will include messages encouraging the humane treatment of animals, so that local people will be asking the community to take care of their animals, not foreigners.

The Mayor, Alberto Alonzo, the Vice Mayor, Fedelina and the local veterinarian, Dr. Acosta, worked very hard with the local Animal Balance representatives, Connie and Irma, to arrange the campaign. The municipality provided us with a huge basketball center, a water tank and many other essential items. Tim, AB's 'fix everything' guy, put in a great lighting system for us. Dr. Acosta gave advice to the Animal Balance veterinarians during orientation, so that they would know what to expect and some tips on common problems with the animals’ health in that area. He was present at the clinic nearly every day and he also helped transport and hold animals overnight at his local clinic. Dr. Medina, from Cabrera, helped us by lending his huge truck so we could transport all of our supplies across to Rio San Juan and back. This really was a group effort by everyone in Cabrera and Rio San Juan. We were delighted that we received so much cooperation.

Our local helpers, John, Gessy and Jorge once again spent every day with us. Gessy was trained in basic technical skills by Dr. Silvia, so at the next clinic he will be in the animal technician role. John was trained in surgical instrument sterilization and assisted the vets and Jorge was trained in the recovery section. These 3 young Dominican men have been helping us for 2 years now and they are an essential part of each campaign.

We held daily clinics at the basketball court and we held a mobile clinic at the local Fire Station. The Fire Chief kindly moved out his fire trucks and his ambulance so we could use the car port area as our clinic. Luckily there were no fires that day! We sterilized 263 cats and dogs and gave Rabies vaccinations to those animals and another 40 more, who had already been sterilized. In addition, we saw some chronically sick animals who we treated as the local veterinarians did not have the medicines to help any further.

Dairne Ryan volunteered for the campaign and she shared this story with me, it truly illustrates how much people care for their animals and how compassionate the Animal Balance volunteers are.

 It was late Saturday afternoon and I  was standing in the hotel balcony watching the sunset and a serious swimmer out on the bay.  All of a sudden the swimmer stopped and looked up at me (he was pretty far away), and shouted out, "You're from Animal Balance!  Thank you.  You spayed my Chihuahua.  She has a little cyst next to her incision."  I told him that Dr. Sylvia was there with me and that she would be happy to check out his little dog, Susi.

He insisted that he didn't want to bother us after all our work, and I insisted that it was not a bother and that we really would like to check her out.  So he got out of the water and went home to get Susi.  Sylvia checked her out.  She was fine.  And the guy thanked us and Animal Balance once again for our work in his community.

Thank you to everyone who made this campaign such a success. We thank everyone in Rio San Juan and Cabrera who welcomed us with open arms and made our visit so special and successful.

Emma Clifford
Founder and Director

Dr. Martine with John assisting.

                                                  Recovering the dogs at the Fire Station clinic.

                                                        Dr. Silvia and Jessie give pre-meds.
                                                    Cesaire and Chris help a dog into his 
                                                     wheelbarrow - his ride home.

                                                    Patiently waiting for her turn with Dad!

                                                    The owner comes back with his refurbished
                                                    wheelbarrow for his second dog :)

                                                    Jorge helping the animals wake up safely
                                                    in recovery.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Animal Balance Joined Forces with H.S.I to Help the Animals of Haiti

In May 2011, while I was presenting at the Humane Society International (H.S.I.) Conference on organizing field clinics, I was asked by H.S.I. Haiti Director, Chris Broughton, to go to Port au Prince to assess their newly formed clinic and provide any advice to help the clinic run more smoothly and efficiently.  Carla Naden, who is an Animal Balance volunteer and animal handling specialist, accompanied me.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from the earthquake, which was 2 years ago. People, even now, continue to live in tent cities and line up for water. It is hard to imagine how the people are surviving. Multinational companies are exploiting the Haitian people for cheap labor. In the Port au Prince area there are no trees and few bushes, just mostly rubble and plastic garbage. We were only there 4 days; we were shocked into silence most of the time.

However, H.S.I. have done an outstanding job creating an animal clinic site on the outskirts of Port au Prince. They have collaborated with a Christian Missionary organization to convert an old motel into volunteer housing and an animal clinic. The space is excellent, it is painted with trees, animals and rainbows and  is very well equipped. It is a place where you would be happy to take your animals.

We held a 2 day clinic and reserved the third day for post op checks and for discussing protocols and clinic flow. We sterilized 33 dogs.  I worked with Jean Claude Cesaire, the Clinic Coordinator, to explain how to capture critical clinic information using registration forms, protocols and maintain the flow of animals. Carla worked with the animal pick up team to conduct a training on safe animal handling.

The Haitian Veterinarians had all trained in Cuba and were well educated in the practice of spaying and neutering, however as supplies are short in Haiti and people cannot afford to have their animals sterilized, they have not had much practice at the surgeries. Thanks to H.S.I. the clinic's services were free to the community and they funded all the medicines and supplies needed. This was their second clinic and their first clinic without a foreign veterinarian present. They did a fabulous job and all 33 dogs did well. 

Cesaire and Chris then came with us to the Dominican Republic and worked on the Animal Balance campaign in Rio San Juan. Cesaire has now returned to Haiti and this week he is holding his third sterilization campaign in Haiti. Cesaire is a great leader and is very compassionate. The animals are in good hands.

My next blog will be about the Dominican Republic campaign!

Emma Clifford
Founder and Director