Saturday, December 14, 2013

In ten years ...

It was a day, ten years ago this week, that I will forever remember.

December 13, 2003 was the day Saddam Hussein was "smoked out of his hole" and I visited my first spay/neuter campaña in Cuba.

I would have though that at least one of the events would have received a mention in the media yesterday.

This campaña was held in a private house with surgery done on a kitchen table. Thirty plus dogs were sterilized by a highly skilled veterinarian. A team of volunteers and "protectoras" would hold these weekend events because there were neither the supplies nor the willingness to do this in a government run clinic.

So, what has changed in ten years?
The USA still has a unhealthy paranoia of the outside world. Veterinary clinics in Cuba still do not have supplies to carry out emergency surgery on small animals-- let alone elective surgery like spay/neuters.
One of these constants should be easier to remedy that the other.

The Spanky Project has forged relationships and signed agreements which allow us to work with and in government veterinary clinics. This has allowed humane population control to go from the kitchen table to the surgical suite.

Recently, it seems that the care of small animals in Havana has been "flashbacked" to 2003.
And, unfortunately, today's "private" veterinarian is not always as skilled as the one I met in 2003.

The Spanky Project had to cancel two long planned trips to Havana. The first, in October, would have seen the official hand over of two anaesthesia machines to the University of Havana Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. A number of sterilization campañas were to be held, also.
The second, in December, was to be a continuation of the highly successful TNR for cats program launched in October 2012.
These trips were canceled because the Institute of Veterinary Medicine (IMV) in Cuba would not approve our anaesthesias and other pharmaceuticals for entry into Cuba.
Many of these supplies had been approved in the past.
The IMV now refers to a "Registro de Medicamentos", listing the only drugs that are permitted to enter Cuba for veterinary use. The bulk of the approved pharmaceuticals serve large animals. Few, if any, apply to small animals-- primarily cats and dogs.

The present rules of the "Registro de Medicamentos" require the manufacturing company to make the application and provide data as to use and safety of a drug they wish to have available for use in Cuba.
I ask you, what manufacturer would want to go through the effort to have their products registered in Cuba when there is no profit to be made?

We have sent our comments on the "Registro" to the IMV for consideration. We have also sent suggestions as to how a solution could be found to permit entry under special circumstances.
Suggestions such as the drugs we require would be used in designated locations only.
Used under strict reporting guidelines as to application and reporting of any negative effects or outcomes. 

At present, the clinics in Havana do not have anaesthetics. People are seeking out "private" veterinarians for treatment of their animals. These "private" veterinarian's access to anaesthetic would be less than legal.
Some of the "private" veterinarians are not qualified to call themselves veterinarians.

We have an excellent relationship with the Clinca Veterinaria Carlos III in Havana. This was the location of our mass TNR where 380+ cats were sterilized in one five days.
They have had cases where people bring in their pets that were operated on by a "private" veterinarian because of infections or other complications.
The situation in Havana, and likely other areas of Cuba, is critical from a small animal care perspective.

We want to work with the IMV to help Cubans help their animals.
The Spanky Project has reached out to the IMV... we are awaiting a response. We have over $9000.00 worth of supplies purchased packed and you have the paperwork for approval.
We are packed and ready to go. Just give us the word!!

What has changed in ten years? If one looks at the big picture ... not much.
There have been victories along the way but the struggle continues.
Why is it so hard to try to do good?

"Seamos realistas y hagamos lo imposible" - Ernesto Che Guevara
(Let's be realists and do the impossible) 

Waiting for a miracle!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wishlist Wednesday

It has been a while since we have had a 

Below are items that can be purchased and delivered by you to Cuba.
We have partners in several locals.

Ketchum 50D 7digit Tattoo Clamp.
We tattoo all pet dogs and cats.
3/16" Characeter Set 0-9 A-Z
Letters & Numbers 4mm
50 mL. 1% Ivomec
Injection for Cattle and Swine
Dosed at a rate of 1/10 cc per lb. this product goes a long way.
Ivomec is a brand name ivermectin product.
Other brand names include Noramectin and Bimectin.
USA  $34.95
 UK £14.57 + VAT
Broad spectrum solution for treating intestinal parasites in dogs at a lower cost

 UK £1.60 treats 10kg
Surgical Gloves sizes all sizes 
We hand these out as a thank you to veterinarians and students that volunteer at our campañas.
Canada $4.79
UK £7.19
Oster #40 Clipper Blades
USA $18.31 on Sale
USA $29.30
UK £25.00 (Including VAT at 20%)
Australia 47.97
Broad spectrum anthelmintic (wormer) for dogs.
This is a low cost alternative to a leading brand name.
Australia AU$135.95
AU ebay  AU $144.31
Hot water bottles.
While under anaesthesia body temperatures drop.
Hot water bottles placed next to the patient help speed recovery.
Epson Stylus NX430 printer ink cartridges
-for delivery to Havana-
Please don't find yourself limited to the above items.
Grooming equipment (Shavers, brushes, scissors, shampoo, nail clippers, combs, etc)
Scrub shirts and pants volunteers.

You may find inspiration in some of our past
If you have any question sent us an email.

Destination delivery details will be provided via email.
We have contacts in
Havana - Varadero - Trinidad - Jibacoa (soon)

Thank you for your support.
Every delivery, no matter how big or small, has a positive impact.

One final wish!
We have received a generous donation of cat traps and transfer cages.
These will be a priceless addition to our December TNR in Havana.
But we need to get them there.
Air Transat may help us with some free cargo space.
If not, we will need another way to get them to either Havana or Varadero.
If need be we will have to pay full freight.
One by one may be an option.
If you are flying out of Toronto and have a second bag allowance you are not using 
we could use your help.
Air Canada and Cubana allow two free bags into Havana.
WestJet allows a second bag for a fee ($20) into Varadero.
   The traps look like the one above.
8 lbs        10”x10”x27.5”

We have seven other boxes ....
  30 lbs        20”x20”x31”
    32 lbs        14”x26”x32.5”
    29 lbs        20”x20”x27.5”
    29 lbs        20”x20”x27.5”
 32 lbs        20”x20”x31”
 32 lbs        20”x20”x31”
  32 lbs        20”x20”x31”
... if you have connections at Air Canada, Cubana, WestJet or a cargo company.

Email Us!

Please share this on your Twitter feed!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thank You Vet Techs

In North America it's
 National Veterinary Technician Week.
 NVTW Press Release
Technologists and technicians enhance the quality of animal and human life through their dedication to the well being of the animals placed in their care. In Canada and the United States, the third week in October has been proclaimed National Veterinary Technician Week and in some provinces, National Animal Health Technologist Week.
Thank you to those Vet Techs that took time to help the Spanky Project.

Whether it be Havana, San Jose de las Lajas, San Miguel del Padron or Jibacoa
they are there by our side.

We thank you for your caring and your commitment.

Thanks also go to the young Cubans that are working toward a Veterinary career

Cheers to you too Krystal.
Krystal traveled to Havana with us in 2012.
Before and after that Krystal was on the Yonge Street Animal Hospital Team.
Her prep work for each and every one of Cuba campaigns was immeasurable.
Krystal is now in Hong Kong for a three year stint.
with her fiancee Alex.

We miss you!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Follow Us

As we lead up to the Spanky Project’s 10th Anniversary in December we have had a flurry of activity filled with joy, disappointment and anticipation.

On the disappointment level, a late October trip to Havana has been cancelled. We did not receive all the necessary permissions in a timely manner.

Visas were in place as was the permission to enter with “donations”.

Donations being all our supplies which for this trip were valued at over $7000.00. The supplies were to be used in our four planned sterilization campañas. Also some of these supplies were to be pre-positioned for our December TNR for Cats.

This is a follow up to our highly successful TNR in October of 2012.
The missing permission needed from the 
Institute of Veterinary Medicine 
was tied up in their bureaucracy. 

We simply could not wait any longer.

In addition to the campañas we were also slated to hold a presentation ceremony at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Havana for the two anaesthesia machines which were delivered in September.

So, our focus now turns to December.

Leading up to the December TNR we will keep you informed of our plans and related stories.

Make sure you don’t miss any of the action.
Follow us on Twitter.

There will be some great stories about our Cuban partners. 
One being Dra.Rocio . 
She, as a result of our 2012 TNR, has become known as the go to Vet in Havana for all things feline.

We are in need of your support to continue our work.

The Spanky Project works with individuals as well as our partner clinics
 for the betterment of animal welfare.
We have no corporate sponsors. 
We rely on kind, caring and generous individuals to fund our programs.

Help us help Cubans help their animals.

You can donate online through the CanadaHelps.
Be sure to note Spanky Project in the "message/instructions" field.

Cheques can be sent to ...
Mackenzie-Papineau Memorial Fund
Attention - Sharon Skup
56 Riverwood Terrace
Bolton, ON L7E 1S4

Please write Spanky Project on the memo line.

Canadians will receive a tax receipt.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CBC Reports On PayPal

Regulars to this blog will remember PayPal shutting down our account in June.
Wayne Anderson, one of our FaceBook Group members alerted the
CBC,Canada's National Broadcaster, to our plight.
Jeff Semple of the CBC contacted me and asked for some details followed later by and interview.

The story first appeared October 1st. on Toronto's CBC New:Toronto at 6:00.
Here is a link to the full show. Jeff's story is at the 14:47 mark.
We and other Canadian have felt the long arm of USA regulations reach into Canada.

Our friend at APAC-Varadero were also cut off.
Grace Waszkiewicz makes several good points in her interview from Edmonton.
PayPal believes we are in violation of US regulations.
We beg to differ.
Stay tuned for further developments and action.

Watch the segment and join the discussion.
We have a late October trip planned.
The supplies have been purchased ($7000.00+) and packed.
We have come up short on fund raising in the amount of $1200.00.
 We need your help.

We are, now, happy to receive credit card donations through

Click here to donate.
Please note Spanky Project on the "message/instructions line"

Monday, September 30, 2013

“For what are we born if not to aid one another?” - E Hemingway

Signed sealed and delivered - June 20, 2013.
The Spanky Project has formalized it's relationship with Finca Vigia / Museo Hemingway.
This agreement was three years in the making.
Our heartfelt appreciation goes to Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales - director Museo Hemingway - for keeping the dream of this project alive.
Special thanks to Gladys Collazo Usallán presidenta del Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural with whom the agreement was signed.
Upon taking up her position, as president, she saw the benefits of the proposal and a signing at the
14th International Ernest Hemingway Colloquium
was arranged.

Año 55 de la Revolución

To Whom it May Concern:

The signatories below to this Letter of Intention agree on collaboration between the Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Nacional, Museo Ernest Hemingway / Finca Vigía and the Canadian organization, Spanky Project, with the objective to:

Create and maintain a stable and healthy cat and dog population at Finca Vigía that reflects the historic character of Ernest Hemingway’s life in this location.


It is widely known that Ernest Hemingway befriended dogs and cats throughout his life, and that he referred to cats as “purr factories” and “love sponges” who gave him much comfort and companionship. The historic archives of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigía, as well as in Key West, make it clear that he was always surrounded by dogs and cats. At any one time at Finca Vigía, he had between eight and nine dogs and over fifty cats, including special rooms set aside for sheltering his cats and a full-time staff person whose responsibility was the ongoing care of these animals. He also buried some of his favourite dogs in marked graves.


To provide a healthy and controlled symbolic population – that is, small and manageable numbers – of dogs and cats at Finca Vigía to represent the cats and dogs with whom Hemingway always lived.

Project Phases

Phase I: Stabilization of the existing dog population through a program of sterilization, vaccination and deparasitation. (Sterilizations completed; vaccination and deparasitation ongoing)
Phase II: Reintroduction of Hemingway’s cats.
Community and educational program through a “Hemingway Look-Alike Cat” search to identify cats that might be introduced to Finca Vigía.
Design and construct an adequate shelter for the cats. (A shelter already exists for the dogs.)
Phase III: Using Finca Vigía as the launching pad, conduct a mass sterilization campaign in the local community, thus stabilizing the surrounding dog and cat population.

Cooperative programs with the local community.
Participation of the community and Cuban veterinary partners.
Educational programs and materials for Finca Vigía workers on the program objectives and care and protection of animals.
Collaboration of the above and international veterinary partners.
Sterilization of Finca Vigía cats and dogs.
Ongoing vaccination and deparasitation program for Finca Vigía dogs and cats.
Future sterilization, vaccination and deparasitation program for dogs and cats in the community surrounding Finca Vigía.

Cooperation: Spanky Project

Provide medications and supplies for sterilization, deparasitation, vaccination and ongoing veterinary care for the animals.
Mobilize international participation and support for the project.
Provide qualified international veterinarians who could be called upon, when necessary, by the Cuban veterinarians participating in the project for information and consultation.
Coordinate an international veterinarian team to work side-by-side with Cuban veterinarian(s) in the project during Phase III.
This will be known as a VetTrek (specialized veterinarian tourism under the Spanky Project). The programs could also include other properties under the administration and stewardship of CNPC.
Promote this program and collaboration with CNPC on the Spanky Project website.

Cooperation: Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural y Finca Vigía

Provide historic information (e.g., photos, descriptions, etc.) of the dog and cat population that existed during Hemingway’s period of residence.
Guarantee the ongoing health care of the animal population including appropriate shelter.
Identify a veterinarian doctor from a nearby community who would be responsible for regularly monitoring and caring for the cat and dog population. This would include scheduled exams, vaccinations, deparasitation, etc. (Done)
Identify a staff person at Finca Vigía who would be responsible for the day-to-day non-medical care of the animals, e.g., the provision of food and water, the administration of oral deparasitation tablets under the direction of the veterinarian, regular and recorded observations of the animals, etc. This person should have the capacity to speak with visitors about the program.
A systematic, regular and guaranteed supply of food for Finca Vigía’s dogs and cats including the exploration of a written agreement with the slaughterhouse to expedite the regular purchase of viscera. The provision of a regular supply of non-protein items such as sweet potato, rice, etc.
Inform the local dog catchers about the program and that Finca Vigía dogs and cats, once sterilized, are identifiable by a tattoo in their ear.
Finca Vigía to accept and hold donations from visitors for the program.
Agreement from CNPC that the Spanky Project and its VetTrek program can use the Finca Vigía and Hemingway name in its promotion of the programs.
CNPC to list this program on its website.

After the signing Mayra Pombo Garcia interviewed me for CUBANOW.

Also, it was great to get a mention in Gramma.
This is an opportunity for all you Hemingway/animal lovers to combine your two passions in support of a unique program.
Email us and we will let you know how you can help.

Fellow Canadian Brian Gordon Sinclair has been a long time friend of the Spanky Project.
He has provided ongoing support for the feeding of Finca Vigia's resident dogs.
On this day he came through again.
Thanks Brian!
Throughout the colloquium Brian gave several performances including 
a wonderful evening performance of his Hot In Havana.
"A superb one-actor show that will make you
believe that Ernest Hemingway is standing right there in front of you.
 It's a rousing adventure of sharks, pirates, submarines and romance ."
During the Colloquim there were many interesting papers presented such as

Another presenter was Cuban Veterinarian Dr.Walfrido López.
His theme,“Hemingway, los gatos y el tiempo”
Walfrido was very kind to present me with his DVD,
Tips Para El Cuidado Del Cats - Tips For The Care of Cats.
He has offered his assistance with our programs.
In addition to the "scholarly" presentations we were taken on some field trips.
Here "The Hemingways" enjoy the Museo de Ron.
We also traveled to Cojimar, a small fishing village east of Havana.
 This is where Hemingway docked his boat the Pilar.
The group participated in a wreath laying ceremony in memory of Hemingway...
.... and a pit stop at Las Terrazas one of his haunts.

Another gem discovered on this trip was meeting David Soul, you remember him- 
Hutch of Starsky and Hutch. 
He is leading the restoration of Hemingway's long lost 1955 Chrysler New Yorker.  David and Christopher Baker- author of Mi Moto Fidel and various Moon travel books- were also working on the documentary.
The closing ceremony was held at Finca Vigia.
In addition to being Hemingway's home, it is home to
Estrellas de Gigi, or Gigi's Stars.
 They were the boys baseball team that Hemingway organized in the 1940s.
A tradition that continues to this day.

Finca Vigia is where Feo, Fita, Kacha (aka Chiquita), Linda, Negrita, 
Negrito, Niña, Pinti and Pinto reside.
These are the dogs we provide for.
Food, vaccines, deparasitizations and check ups.
Tatiana, a Finca staff member, and Pinto.

 The Spanky Project is putting together a VetTrek (veterinary tour)  on the trail of Hemingway.
This will included working in Habana Vieja, San Francisco de Paula - Finca Vigia and Cojimar.
Deparasitizations, sterilizations and consultations will be the order of the day.
If you are in the veterinary field and would like to be kept informed as to our plans, we would 
love to hear from you.
Email us your contact info and details of your field of practice.