Monday, April 18, 2011

From Burnaby to Havana with Love

I hope you enjoy following the wonderful contribution being made by Anne - Marie and Charlotte.
The article below is an follow up to the Burnaby Now of November 17, 2010.
Journey to Cuba to help animals was "eye-opening"

Two Burnaby residents raised $900 for veterinary supplies

By Janaya Fuller-Evans, Burnaby Now March 19, 2011

Burnaby Now

A trip to Cuba made two Burnaby residents more aware of how differently animals are treated in other parts of the world.

Up until the past twenty years or so, there were only veterinarians available for agricultural animals in Cuba, according to Charlotte Sedens, who recently returned after visiting the country.

"People in North America consider their pets to be a part of their family, however, that is not the case for everyone in Cuba right now," Sedens explained in an email. "Dr. Gispert (who works with Clinica Veterinaria Laika in Havana) told us that up until 1989 vets were not even trained in school to practice on small animals such as cats and dogs as they were thought of as a commodity for the rich."

Sedens and Anne-Marie Nagata visited Old Havana to donate supplies to the clinic on Dec. 4.

The pair raised $900 through clients and staff of the Burnaby Veterinary Hospital, and family and friends, to buy supplies for the clinic before leaving for their vacation.

Representatives from Pfizer Canada, Vetoquinol Canada Inc., and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Inc. also helped them purchase and gather the supplies, according to Sedens.

Sedens came across a website based in Prince Edward County, Ont. - the Spanky Project - prior to the trip and decided to raise funds to buy supplies to help veterinarians spay, neuter and provide medical attention to stray dogs in Cuba.

The Spanky Project, run by Terry Shewchuk, raises supply donations to help dogs, cats and horses in Cuba.

Dr. Fernando Gispert, of Clinica Veterinaria Laika, is in charge of the project in Havana.

After arriving in Cuba, Sedens and Nagata booked a tour of Havana, two hours from their resort in Veradero.

Once in Havana, the pair separated from the tour and met with their contact, Susana Hurlich, who served as their translator, according to Sedens.

They were taken to the clinic, a small three-room building in Old Havana, where they spent about two hours. The facilities were clean and well maintained, though small, Sedens said.

"Most of the time was spent informing us on the sterilization initiative and the Spanky Project," Sedens said. "We also learned that the clinic also initiates several other programs."

Through the sterilization initiative, dogs are nursed to health over a 30-day period before being spayed or neutered, and after recovering are put up for adoption.

According to Sedens, every three months a group of Canadian veterinarians goes down to Cuba and performs the sterilizations.

Since the project began four years ago, 273 animals have been sterilized, she said, adding that none were released back on the streets.

The clinic estimates that the amount of stray dogs in Old Havana has decreased by at least 50 per cent in the last four years, Sedens.

Nagata, who had visited Havana in 2003, said the number of street dogs had decreased dramatically since she had last been there.

Sedens, who graduated from Simon Fraser University in April, is a volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium and for the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.

Nagata works at the Burnaby Veterinary Hospital and recently graduated from nursing school.

She chose Cuba as a travel destination because she had been there nine or 10 years ago, and really enjoyed it.

"Animals area huge part of both of our lives," she said. She and Sedens became friends in high school.

The pair is arranging to deliver the supplies they could not take with them to the Spanky Project, for someone else to take to Cuba.