CSU Students, Veterinarians Provide Free Spay and Neutering to Costa Rica Community

Note to Reporters: Print quality photos of the clinic are available for download by visiting www.news.colostate.edu and clicking on the headline of this release.

Colorado State University students spayed and neutered more than 240 animals for free in makeshift five-day clinic, filling a great need for cat and dog care. Set up in a school gymnasium in San Isidro, Costa Rica, the students and veterinarians used baby cribs and school desks as surgery tables and soccer goalie boxes as IV carts. To reach the free clinic, residents who had few resources carried cats in birdcages and cats and dogs in suitcases, coolers and boxes.

Pet owners began lining up outside of the clinic at 4 a.m. Because of the strong response, more than 250 animals were turned away due to limited supplies and time.

“One 14-year-old boy walked for two hours, starting at 5 a.m., with his three dogs,” said Liz Georges, a CSU veterinary student who was on the trip. “When he reached the clinic and saw the line, he thought we wouldn’t be able to squeeze him in and began to cry. We got him in, and we made a difference to him, a big difference. Every donor’s generosity brought a lot of gratitude from the community. The people who donated their time, money and resources allowed us to make immense differences to people and their animals individually and as a community.”

The clinic was staffed by volunteer CSU veterinary students, a CSU veterinary anesthesiologist, and partner veterinarians from Kansas, Colorado and New York. The trip, organized by a CSU veterinary anesthesiologist, Dr. Pedro Boscan, and the non-profit group VIDAS, was funded through donations from the Fort Collins area and from the Costa Rican government. It was held in early January.

“The response was excellent,” said Boscan. “People brought their own pets and also gathered up the neighborhood street dogs, which are cared for by everyone, and brought them to the clinic. In several cases, small trucks with up to 12 dogs in the back arrived from outlaying small towns. People there are very kind to their animals, and we hope to be able to go back again next year and continue to help with spay and neuter needs.”

The clinic was limited to accepting about 40-50 animals a day, and the organizers turned away a crowd of people each day by early morning. They had minimal supplies, carried with them from the United States and purchased through donations or donated by local veterinary clinics and CSU’s VTH, particularly central supply and surgery including the small animal surgery division. Many members of the Fort Collins and Front Range communities donated dog collars and leashes, a specific donation requested by the organizers because many animals in the area had unsafe ropes or wires for collars. The collars and leashes were collected at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Many of the animals received rabies vaccinations, which were donated by the Costa Rican government. The animals also were dewormed and given a general health check.

Although the conditions were challenging, the group was creative in making the clinic work. For example, during recovery, the cats and dogs were amenably piled on top of each other to stay warm and were closely monitored by students.

About 30 Colorado State University veterinary students worked in the clinic, along with five veterinarians from the United States. Two veterinarians from Costa Rica volunteered at the clinic as well. Many students stayed with host families.

“The experience for the students was tremendous,” Boscan said. “They had the opportunity to perfect their full health check protocol, surgery and recovery skills. All of the students had the opportunity to participate in at least five operations each. We’re very grateful to the community for their donations of items and money to make this trip possible. It truly impacted the health of animals and communities.”

Several students stayed with host families and formed long-lasting relationships with them.

The group hopes to return again next year if enough funding can be obtained to support the trip and the supplies needed.

“I think it is very important for us to go back,” said Cecily Lyon, another CSU student on the trip. “We were unable to accommodate everyone, and there were still people lined up after we had closed on the last day of our clinic. I would love to go back several more times; I think we had an immediate impact on the education of pet owners, but it will take a few years to really make a noticeable impact with respect to cat and dog overpopulation.”

To make a donation towards the next trip, contact the CSU student International Veterinary Medical Club at nokunaka@colostate.edu.