Travelling Animal Doctors and Darwin Animal Doctors (T/DAD) has recently entered into an exciting relationship with Saga Humane Society located in San Pedro, Belize. Saga was founded in 1999 and operates the only non-profit veterinary clinic on the island of Ambergris Caye. They were founded with the mission to “prevent cruelty and replace it with kindness to all animals”. Saga aims to do so through providing veterinary care to all those who need it, including ongoing spay/neuter and vaccination campaigns.
Despite the best efforts of the dedicated group, over various periods of time in the organisation’s existence, the clinic has found itself without a qualified veterinarian. During these times, the society has done all they can to fill the void with visiting vets when possible, but it has not been unusual for the island to go long periods without veterinary care available for the many animals of the island. Furthermore, without standardized protocols for treatment and general running of the clinic, it has been difficult for the Saga team to standardize the care provided in the clinic to ensure consistent treatment. The organization has also mentioned that without a solid humane education program they have been unable to reach the local population and educate on important concepts such as the need for sterilization, wellness treatment and general animal care.
Terry Stone, Board Chair for Darwin and Travelling Animal Doctors stated, “Although often seen as a pristine vacation island, Ambergris Caye is part of a developing nation where veterinary care is not accessible to the general public, and the results of such a situation are clear. Despite the dedication of individuals like members of Saga, the island still has a prevalent feral animal population and needs concentrated efforts to deal with this and other issues.” Over 2100 animals were treated in 2015 and more than 3500 have been treated thus far in 2016; with the obvious stray dog/cat population on the island, the need for veterinary care and humane education is extremely clear. Belize contains seven protected UNESCO sites and 80% of its mainland is covered by rainforest with an abundance of endangered animals. “The three-prong mission of T/DAD is to provide free professional veterinary care, humane education and protect the biodiverse environment in remote and developing countries… therefore, Belize is an ideal location for our organization” continues Terry.
Over the last two years, Travelling Animal Doctors & Darwin Animal Doctors have been in discussions with Saga Humane Society over their needs on Ambergris Caye and in the wider Belize community. As the end of 2016 comes closer and the Saga team looks towards 2017 as another period without a veterinarian, T/DAD has decided to enter into an agreement with the society in order to support their efforts. “We believe all animals should have access to veterinary care”, says Dr Jochem Lastdrager, President/Founder of Travelling Animal Doctors and the chief veterinarian for Darwin Animal Doctors , “lack of access is a problem we can solve.”
Beginning in January of 2017, Travelling & Darwin Animal Doctors will step in to support and guide the Saga clinic, initially for a one-year period. T/DAD will ensure that the clinic has a consistent veterinarian presence, up to the standards of both Travelling Animal Doctors & Darwin Animal Doctors, for the entire year. In addition to this, Dr Jochem Lastdrager, will introduce the T/DAD protocols and standards of care to ensure animal treatment and care in the Saga clinic is streamlined and of the highest standard possible for such a remote country. Furthermore, T/DAD will also be sending our Humane Education coordinator to implement the T/DAD Humane Education Program in order to promote and further develop the understanding and views of animal welfare on the island.
As this relationship between two like-minded, non-profit organizations develops, Travelling and Darwin Animal Doctors will open the clinic doors to volunteers from all over the world. As in other Darwin Animal Doctors clinics, the Belize clinic will be used as a platform to aid in the development of veterinary students in their final years of study by providing “hands on training”, as well as welcoming fully qualified veterinarians from all over the world to volunteer their talents and expertise. In this manner, Darwin Animal Doctors will be able to continue to support the high quality education of current veterinary students and ensure that the clinic is maintained with quality veterinarians to reach T/DAD and Saga’s combined goals.
The relationship between the two organizations is an exciting one. As T/DAD works alongside Saga, we will be able to ensure that consistent high quality veterinary care is available to all animals on Ambergris Caye. By providing our protocols, standards of best treatment, T/DAD Humane Education program, and consistent volunteers and veterinarians, T/DAD will be able to give Saga the support they require to move forward and achieve their goals for animal welfare on Ambergris Caye and in the wider Belize community.