Friday, December 2, 2016

Dispatches From Havana Mini-Campaña

Dispatches from Havana –
(On-the-spot news from Susana Hurlich, the Spanky Project’s coordinator in Cuba)

On Monday, November 14, 2016 we held what is our third – for this year - mini-sterilization campaign at Quinta de los Molinos. Starting last year, we have been organizing these campaigns in close collaboration with Quinta de los Molinos, an eco-educational and urban park centre coming under the Historian’s Office of the City of Havana and one of our important counterparts for our work in the Cuban capital. Our hope is to eventually hold such campaigns on a monthly basis. They are small campaigns – no more than fifteen cats and dogs each time – but they provide yet another contribution to humane population control of both mascots and street animals in between our twice-yearly mass sterilization campaigns.

This time we sterilized twelve animals including eight cats and four dogs. Of the cats, one was male and seven were female of whom three were pregnant. All four dogs were females of whom one was pregnant.

The “waiting room” at Quinta de los Molinos.
Our team was once again excellent and is, in fact, one of several permanent teams of Cuban veterinary professionals who regularly collaborate with the Spanky Project and with whom we have been working to help upgrade some of their skills (pain management and control, combination anesthetics, etc.). Here they are:

  • Dr. Leyssan Cepero Fiallo, chief veterinarian at Quinta de los Molinos who also works closely with the Historian’s Office in Habana Vieja. He was in charge of surgery.
  • Dr. Yanaisy (“Nana”) Pino, who was in charge of the initial clinical assessment of the animals, anesthetic and post-operative care.
  • Yoel Machado, the veterinary technician at Quinta de los Molinos who was in charge of preparation.
  • Ernesto Sanchez, a fifth-year veterinary student who, for the past two years, has been doing his practicum at Quinta de los Molinos. Ernesto assisted with surgical support.

We also had several additional people working with us:

  • Dr. Zeynep Guleryuzlu, a visiting veterinarian from Turkey who is interested to support our work and who will, in the near future, become one of our international collaborating veterinarians.
  • Dr. Susana Alfonso Domingo, a fourth-year medical student (for people) whose two cats were sterilized in our previous campaigns and who wants to help our campaigns. She assisted in both preparation and post-operative care.
  • Claudia Mena, a new Spanky Project collaborator, who will be responsible for one of our “community dogs and cats” micro-projects in Habana Vieja.
 From left to right: Leyssan, Nana, Ernesto, Susana (Spanky Project) and Zeynep. Note Zeynep’s wonderful “veterinarian cat cap” which everyone commented on, even the owners. (Some of the team members had unfortunately left before we took the group shot!)

Our team arrived at Quinta at 8am, with a plan to begin operating at 9am. All the animals had appointments, divided into three groups of five between 9-10am, 10-11am and 11am to noon. These appointments are made – by phone during the previous two weeks - with people hearing about the upcoming campaign by word of mouth, or people who have participated in earlier campaigns who still have animals they’d like to neuter. At the time of the phone call, we provide a little orientation about how to prepare the animals for surgery (fasting, drinking little water, anti-parasitics where possible, etc.)

However, we weren’t able to begin operating until almost 10:30am as there was a problem with water supply this morning into this part of the city. Water didn’t begin to enter the area until about 10am, and then we had to wait another half hour for it to be pumped up to the tank on top of the building so that the operating clinic-cum-laboratory could begin the surgeries.

In the meantime, all animals were registered, as shown below. In addition to contact information for the owner or protector, we get basic information about the animal: age, previous health problems, allergies, whether the animal lives outside or inside, etc. All this information is helpful to know when the clinical examination takes place.
Claudia registering Chulito, our only male cat during this campaign, brought in by Amelia, a ceramist from Habana Vieja who cares for a colony of some 25 cats.

Among both cats and dogs, we had several who had been rescued from the street. Chulito, a one-year-old male cat, was abandoned in a garbage bin as a newborn, and in the process apparently suffered a head injury that caused spasms. Now his spasms are under control with the daily administration of phenobarbital and he has a loving home with Ileana, a friend of Amelia’s who wasn’t able to come to the campaign due to illness. Thanks to Amelia’s assistance, little Chulito is now neutered.

Sisi, a rescue dog who has been in the care of the custodians of the parking lot of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) – located two blocks from my home – was pregnant, in her first trimester, with a baker’s dozen of puppies (actually, eleven rather than thirteen). Today she’s recuperating from her surgery in the home of a neighbor who has talked with the custodians about finding a permanent “forever home” for her. No one knows her age, but she’s a very gentle and noble being. She came to our campaign with four-month-old Gisela, a black puppy who was rescued from the street just a month ago.
 Sisi (standing with her back to us) and Gisela (black puppy).

These are only two stories of the many stories we have of the animals who pass through our campaigns. Every story is different, but the common thread running through them is that whether owner or protector, these are animals who are loved, who have been saved from terrible fates on the street and who are now no longer in danger of either bringing into the world yet more unwanted and/or abandoned animals, nor of being vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.
 Dr. Leyssan in the surgical ward.

All animals who go through our neutering campaigns receive either a tattoo on their earlobe and/or on their abdomen (mascots) or, in the case of colony cats, the tip of one of their ears is docked – all under anesthetic, of course. This helps to identify that they’ve been neutered.

People who brought animals to this campaign came from the five municipalities of Habana Vieja, Centro, Plaza, Playa and Marianao.

Our thanks go not only to our wonderful collaborating Cuban veterinarians, veterinary technicians and others, but also to the owners and protectors who care enough about their animal friends to participate in our campaigns.
 Adian and his four-legged friend Albina waiting their turn.

If you’d like to help our work…

…although the entry of medications into Cuba - such as anesthetics - is tightly controlled, there are a number of disposable supplies that are extremely useful for sterilization campaigns for cats and dogs. Here’s a little list of things that are in short supply here and that can be brought into the country by visitors without the need for customs authorization:
  • Syringes, 1 mL (1 cc), sizes 27G x ½”, 25G x 5/8” and especially 23G or 22G x ½”
  • Absorbable sutures, sizes 2.0 and 3.0, preferably monofilament
  • Surgical gloves, size 6.5, 7 and 7.5 (& some 8) (Note: surgical, not examination)
  • Gauze (preferably sterile), size 7.5cm x 7.5cm (more or less)
  • Ink for tattoos (Ketchum Animal Tattoo Ink)

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