OPERACION AMOR: Making a Difference!
By Carolyn Cothran
When people move to Lakeside, one of the first things that they often comment on is the issue of dogs and cats running loose in various states of health. It is a real problem. In fact, the statistics are staggering. Taking one unsprayed female cat, her mate, and all of her offspring producing two litters a year and assuming 2.8 kittens per litter survive, in eight years, there will be 2,072,514 cats. By simply spaying and neutering one male and one female cat, more than 2,000 unwanted births can be prevented in just four years, and more than 2 million in 8. If a female dog, her mate and all of their puppies, etc. are not neutered, in six years, it can add up to 67,000 dogs.
Three very dedicated women and some equally committed volunteers are trying to make a change. Amalia Garcia, Mayra Ortiz Tejeda, and Cameron Peters are the principles in Operacion Amor. The group holds 2-3 Spay and Neuter clinics per year. Held in different parts of the Lake Chapala area, they take their clinics to parts of this area that really need the assistance. In 2013 the Clinics were in Plaza De Toros, Tepehua, and San Nicholas. These are areas where people do not have direct access to veterinary care, and if they did, they probably could not afford it. The idea is not to exclude anyone, but rather to reach out to those who are really in need, so they go to areas that really need the help. The most recent event was in November and took place in a school in Chapala.
Several volunteers likened the clinic to a MASH unit we may have seen in movies or on television. Everything is totally mobile. The ladies find a location that will enable tables to be set up for surgery and recovery along with all of the other areas such as registration and prepping. Once that location is designated and the dates are established, they create a communication that is designed to be given out to the people of the area. The communication gives the dates and times of the clinics. A lot of advance work goes into this event. The more help they get from the community leaders, the more successful the clinic is. There have been times when they have gone to the area priest to receive an endorsement for the clinic and the procedures.
The culture is beginning to change and to view the concept of sterilization more favorably. Operacion Amor is totally worked by volunteers with the exception of two to three veterinarians who work for an organization called The Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation. It is a private foundation located in Mexico City who provides vets that are particularly skilled in spay and neuter surgery. They travel around Mexico offering their services to clinics like Operacion Amor. Area veterinarians also volunteer their time as they are available. There can be six or seven performing the procedures all day. Dr. Bob Strand, a US vet also volunteers his time and expertise on the clinic. Dr. Bob has a background in teaching and does an excellent job of helping expedite the clinics while working with both vets and volunteers to ensure a smooth movement of dogs and cats and owners through the system.
Operacion Amor has done the very best it can to keep the cost of surgery down to about $200 pesos per animal. Operacion Amor, however, cannot continue to serve the community without more financial assistance from individual donors. The day of the clinic, which starts at 9, people start lining up with their dogs and cats as early as 7. Once given a number, they wait until they are called. Trained volunteers weigh the dogs and the right amount of anesthesia is calculated and administered. More volunteers prep the pets by shaving in the appropriate areas.
When the surgical table and the dog or cat is ready, they are placed on the operating table and the surgery is performed. Highly skilled volunteers assist the surgeons. The animal is then taken to recovery where one volunteer per cat or dog is assigned to watch and massage the animal until they are checked to make sure they are recovering and then they are sent home. The entire process can take about two hours.