For many North Americans who are used to spoiling their pets rotten and, in fact, treating them as their children (ahem, guilty as charged!), moving to a country like Panama can be a real eye-opener. Here, many parts of the culture have a rather different take on pet ownership; in fact, dogs are often kept for security purposes only and are treated in a manner that would not meet the approval of many folks back home. It can be difficult to understand, and heartbreaking, to see a half-starved dog chained up outside a house or packs of skeletal dogs roaming the streets and rooting through the garbage. But who are we to judge, coming from a country in which shocking stories of animal cruelty seem to be on the news every other day? (Side note: one thing you DON’T see down here are homeless people living on the streets. Panamanian families are very close-knit and people really take care of their own, which is so often not the case in the U.S.)
Nonetheless, Panama does have a serious overpopulation problem with dogs and cats. Until recently, automatically spaying or neutering a puppy or kitten has not been part of the mindset here. One group that’s out to change all that (and is having a real impact) is Amigos de Animales Boquete, a group that has sterilized literally thousands of dogs and cats (!) since its founding in 2005. Amigos is completely funded by donations and run by volunteers. Go here to learn more. And if you feel moved to make a donation, they could really use it.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Once a month, Amigos de Animales runs a day-long low-cost spay/neuter clinic, and John and I got to participate as volunteers yesterday. It was a wonderful experience, and one of the big takeaways was how many Panamanian families participate, as volunteers or by bringing their own pets. Clearly, many, many locals love their kitties and pups as much as any of us “gringos!”
The other big takeaway: this is one well-organized, smoothly operating machine – a veritable animal sterilization assembly line. Although at times it seemed like organized chaos, we were blown away by the professionalism and knowledge of the Animales leaders and how well-thought-out the entire operation is.
Hi, I received a 404 error for June 1 posting. Just not there, although the one about David came through with no problem. I enjoy your blog, Carol Kennedy
Hi Carol – I published an earlier draft by mistake this morning. Hopefully you can see the final now. Thanks for reading our blog!
Fortunately there’s a growing awareness among Panamanians of the need to spay and neuter cats and dogs. When I took my volunteer dog (she showed up with a broken leg, and if you feed them they’re YOURS!) to the spay clinic in David which was incredibly crowded, there were only one or two other gringos there. Everyone else was a native.
I tried to look it up, but a while back there was a post by someone down in the Azuero who wrote about a clinic there where someone came in with a TRUCKLOAD of dogs to be spayed. No, for the most part they don’t treat their dogs the same way here as they do in the States, but it’s good to see that regular people are getting with the spay and neuter programs to control the pet population.
Rural Texas when I grew up was not so different. On the farm we had outside dogs and always one inside pet dog.
Sue, I grew up with the same out in West Texas. Dogs and cats (for the most part) were kept outside. But they were always members of the family 🙂
Wow what an awesome way to spend the day!! I bet your girls were curious as to where you’d been with all the new smells you brought home :).
Oh, they sure were! Let’s hope we didn’t bring home any fleas with the smells!
It’s great to see your pics of the clinic yesterday Susan! I made a donation of new and nearly new surgical instruments when we were there last week. I hope they were in the hands of the vets yesterday and made a difference! Amigos de Animales is making a huge difference in the lives of Panama’s pets and their owners!
That’s great, Allyson! I’m sure they were put to good use yesterday. It’s an awesome organization.