A Plea for Continued Round-the-Clock Veterinary Care in San Pedro + Elsie’s Story

We currently have two important veterinary clinics in San Pedro, Belize.  And one of them is in trouble.

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Puppy that wandered up to my doorstep last year…needing a home.

One is the wonderful SAGA Humane Society which was founded in 1999 when there was NO care for animals on Ambergris Caye.    They work tirelessly on a myriad of issues.  From affordable pet care, education at the school, spay & neutering free clinics, dog & cat sheltering and adoptions, rounding up strays…the list goes on.  All on fundraising by the board and donations from supporters.

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Cat in the donated “cattery” at SAGA Humane Society daintily waiting for a home.

An amazing AMAZING crew but one that is seriously stretched.  They work with Dr. Baptiste, a fantastic Belizean veterinary doctor, but he has a ton going on.  He has his own clinic outside of Belmopan, he works with the Hopkins Humane Society and others around the country.

He is available at the SAGA San Pedro Clinic  3 days a week.  Tuesday to Thursday.

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We also have the San Pedro Animal Hospital – which has been in existence for about 6 years.  It is a “private clinic” with the current vet – Dr. Trish from Canada.  SPAH is open 5 days a week and available (when possible) 24 hours a day for emergencies.

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Dr. Trish and her crew

They are an animal hospital, not a shelter and do some different things than SAGA – like bathing and grooming and in-house lab work (with blood or skin scrapings).  SPAH also has some different types of medication and ways of giving & monitoring anesthesia.

BOTH CLINICS PERFORM IMPORTANT FUNCTIONS ON THE ISLAND.

But quickly…let me tell you about my dog Elsie.  You MAY have heard her mentioned in this blog before…but she is a perfect example of how a Belize Humane Society and the San Pedro Animal Hospital (SPAH) can compliment each other.

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Baby hermit crabs 10 legs each. Elsie, three.

And while I will be tempted to wax poetic about Elsie the wonder dog – her mild. forgiving and loving personality and her gorgeous bovine looks…I’ll TRY to keep it short.

Elsie, last week.  Happy and secure and comfortable and in about 1000x better shape than when she was found last October.

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Hopkins Humane Society in tiny Hopkins village in Southern Belize is a power house.  I travelled down to help them out for a few days in October – in Dangriga and in Hopkins – with some visiting vet help from the states and a bunch of free vet clinic.

Here is their amazing leader, Clara Lee.

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While out in Dangriga, locating and picking up strays and pets for veterinary care, we came upon “Domino”.

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She was in horrifying shape, oozing gaping sores, cut ears, filthy…I won’t go on.  But her tail was wagging…so happy to see us and SHE NEEDED HELP.

Jason, a volunteer with the HBHS put it beautifully –  “Her name is domino and all she does is love.

We picked this girl up while out on a round up mission for a spay/neuter clinic at ‪#‎hbhs‬. Her former owner was trying to kill her by means of starvation and luckily for domino, her neighor intervened. While her rescuers intentions were pure, their circumstances were unforgiving and we were approached by the people that were caring for Domino with pleas for assistance. We took her in to be spayed and returned but decided she would be better served under our care . She will be placed in a home that reciprocates her endless waves of love and humility. But first……we will rehab her for a few weeks with massages, walks, quality food and a lot of love.”

Over the next month, Jason and his wife Carol Ann cared for “Domino” – fed her, walked her, bathed her…while we all looked for a home for this deserving girl.

One month later, the couple and I drove up to Belize City, water taxied to San Pedro and boated up to Rojo Beach Bar/Azul and her new owner Jeff.  Jeff didn’t know (until later that week) that he was meeting one of the great loves of his life.

She was renamed Elsie.  I mean LOOK AT HER!

borden cow

And over the next few months, she put on weight but her back leg had a large wound that just didn’t seem to get better.

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Dr Trish at SPAH saw her often, treated it and later, suggested amputation.  This DEEP bone infection, that had been there for years, was hurting her.   Really hurting her.   And the leg was just a burden that was preventing her whole body from healing.

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Still the decision was hard.  SO hard.

elsie legs in airAnd finally, it was made for us.  Her wound opened (in epic fashion, think slasher films)…and it was time for the leg to come off.   After reading volumes of the subjects of tripods, watching countless videos off super healthy, happy three legged dogs and talking at length to Dr Trish.

San Pedro Animal Hospital did the surgery – she had 15 veins feeding that sick leg, where normally there would be three.  They all needed to be tied off.

And in recovery, they helped to keep her warm.

Warm elsieElsie (the wonder dog) was up, going out to go to the bathroom and tugging at Dr. Trish’s leash less than 12 hours later.  Smiling her potlicker smile at the SPAH staff.

They took amazing care of her, followed up with emails galore and see her quite often.  She lived in hellish conditions  for 4 or 5 years, she still has a few issues.  But she loves them and they love her.

And I love her.   Here she is smiling JUST after surgery.

smiling after srugery

They did a fantastic job.

LET ME GET TO THE POINT!  Access to health care is a significant deciding factor for people either moving abroad or visiting here long term… both for people AND their pets.  It’s incredibly important to the island and the current residents.

We have taken a huge (and ridiculously LONG OVERDUE) step forward with 24 hour care for humans HUMANS! at the San Pedro Polyclinic – something SO CRITICAL to this island.

But now our 24 hour health care for our pets, something that is currently in place, is at risk.   Let’s not take a step backwards.

We received this email from SPAH last week:

As many of you know due to difficulties in obtaining permits and licenses from the Veterinary Board and BAHA, the San Pedro Animal Hospital will be closing at the end of this year. For 6 years we have provided medical and surgical care, as well as emergency care for the animals of Ambergris Caye. As well, thanks to the San Pedro Animal Foundation we have spayed and neutered pets from San Pedro’s poorest neighborhoods, and provided emergency care to animals who otherwise would have been euthanized due to lack of funds.

We are asking that those who are able, to write to the following individuals offering support for the San Pedro Animal Hospital. We are hoping to be able to resolve these issues, and continue to offer services to the animals of San Pedro.

Veterinary Board of Belize: vetsurgeonsboard.belize@gmail.com
Dr. DePaz: depaz_miguel2004@yahoo.com
Dr. Gongora: bz.victor@gmail.com
Dr. Chimilio: bchimilio@yahoo.com
Dr. Crawford: janecrwfrd@yahoo.co.uk
Dr. Paquet-Durand: ipaquet@gmx.net
Dr. Myers: joe_my2003@yahoo.com
BAHA: ceo@agriculture.gov.bz

Please help them to keep their hospital open.  An email or 8…a talk with our mayor…or anyone that you know of influence…there is MORE than enough room for two clinics working together.

It took two to save Elsie.

I absolutely do not want to get involved in who was wronged in the past…or the politics and personalities of this whole matter…it was a MESS 6 years ago and I’m sure you can find 1000 “he said, she said” versions of the story…but I do want consistent reliable medical care for my pets.  And the pets of the island.

And as a follow up to this article, I plan to talk to the SAGA board when I return to the island.  I KNOW they have plans for a new clinic and probably much much more.

I will fill you in.

Thank you from Elsie, me and my three cats, Poochie (age 18+), Pupusa (7 – below) and Rita (a SAGA kitty, age 5)

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  • Jim

    I urge everyone to email the veterinary board. It will be tragic for our pets if we lost SPAH. I know of several instances of care they have provided that could not be done on the Island by other than the hospital. We really need both SAGA and SPAH.

    • Ruth

      Kind of looks like my Bodger. God bless our 4 legged little buddies.

    • SPmQQse

      HAHAHAHAHHAAA

  • marysaunders

    I do not understand why and even how politicians who are responsible for care and culture in San Pedro would sabotage a working animal clinic, in this case. They have to know this story will go all over the place. I have no way to know what to write to people who would behave this way. Usually this sort of thing comes down to somebody wanting to take the investment of others to make profit from the work of others to start something. It is so difficult to start from scratch, and if start-up barriers are placed, it makes that worse. If Belize is to retain its branding of being a caring place, so necessary for this economy that has used sites that rate service so assiduously, this needs to be addressed in a systemic way. It may seem this issue is just local to San Pedro. Trust me, it’s not. Belize needs to support its reputation for care and peaceful negotiation. There is competition in the neighborhood concerning this. I track the places that rate, and I know this.

    • Belize Blog

      I am not positive for the reasons – I BELIEVE it is because the operator, the head vet Dr. Lori is only in the country part time, and that she hires young vets to come in to help out? But this is speculation…politics around here (or anywhere) are pretty hard to figure out…

      But I agree – i don’t want to start from scratch! That could take years.

  • Susan Watts

    Done! Emailed them yesterday. I pray for Ambergris Caye daily these days…seems the whole Island is in trouble!

  • marysaunders

    Thanks for replying. I hope to be in Belize later this year. I am pretty cause-oriented and persistent. Some people in my church where I am now know some people in the government in Belize. I will press to get contact info. This to me is very serious stuff.

  • Laurie Droke

    Only in San Pedro, Belize is owning and operating an animal hospital about “politics and personalities”. So sad that we have to celebrate an example of a humane society and an animal hospital working together. Now that I am back in the U.S. working full-time the situation seems even more absurd. I work with rescue groups and humane societies every day as does most every other animal hospital in the world! Thanks to everyone who is working to keep the hospital open. I am so proud of our staff and volunteers and they get so little recognition for the excellent work they do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    • Belize Blog

      It’s seemed to be about personalities and politics since the very inception of SPAH.

      I’ve been hearing that it is a matter of licensing – that licensing a vet that is abroad is a problem, can’t Dr. Trish just be licensed? Granted…lots of what you hear around here is dead wrong. But maybe you could clarify Laurie?

  • Laurie Droke

    The board has refused to approve both my application this year as well as Trish’s application. In addition they never approved Camille’s last year.