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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It is this time of year again. The time of looking back at the months gone by,  and making a summary of accomplishments as well as errors, that can be valuable lessons for future plans.

Festival of Trees - Edmonton 2011

In December 2011, after a few months of meetings and negotiations, Dr. Hanoi Dominguez drafted an agreement between APAC and CCVC ( Consejo Cientifico Veterinarion de Cuba), the Non-Government Organization (NGO). From now on we can import anesthetics and other essential medications from Canada to Cuba. We will function as a project under the patronage of the National Commission for Animal Welafare (COMBAC). Dr. Dominguez is a coordinator of COMBAC for the Province of Matanzas, where most of our work takes place.
This new status allows us to work together with our friends from the Spanky Project, another Canadian organization that helps Cuban animals in the Havana area since 2003.


Dr. Slavik Zenkov at the clinic in Cardenas

We are really proud of our achievements. Thanks to a steady supply of anesthetics (mainly from ANIPLANT) our doctors performed close to a thousand  surgeries, most of them in pre-organized clinics across the Province of Matanzas. The clinics prevented several thousands of dogs and cats from being born to life of suffering and homelessness. They also provided our doctors and volunteers with an opportunity to educate Cubans about proper pet care, and to make average persons more sensitive to the situation of stray animals.

Our support network is growing, and people from all over Canada are bringing suitcases of supplies to help with surgeries and other medical needs of animals under our care. We are very grateful for all help we receive, and we appreciate the trust and enthusiasm with which help is offered. We promise not to disappoint you.

The very first public appearance of our organization took place at 2011 Pawlooza Festival in London, Ontario. We owe this debut to our most active volunteer, wonderful Lynn Wodzak and her friend Jackie Bowes. They prepared our colorful kiosk and spent the whole day promoting our work in Cuba. Plans are made to do it again next year!

                                         Jackie and Lynn at Pawlooza 2011

Every day, we promise ourselves not to get involved  in adoptions outside Cuba. These are very time consuming and costly. However, we still have to learn how to say 'no'. Increased traffic on our Facebook Page, and Cuba being one of the most popular winter escapes for Canadians, bring to us many individuals asking for help. It is always the same story - of a tourist taking care of an animal that comes to visit at the hotel room. A bond is created, and people find it difficult to leave a dog (or a cat) behind. Even though reluctantly, we do help. Some of the dogs that came from Cuba in 2011 are: Lily, Pepa, Honey, Finn, Poppi, Boots, Nina, Cria, Hoya, Saba, Chico, Che, Rosie, Vera....., and cats: Ernesto, Snickers, Nala and Nina.

Thank you again to CANDi for including us into your agreement with Air Transat, that helps to bring adopted animals to Canada. Thank you Air Transat cargo staff, both Canadian and Cuban for providing excellent service, and delivering all the animals safely into their new homes.

We don't have enough room to list all volunteers who have been supporting us throughout a year. You brought supplies and money, you helped spread good news about us and shared difficult moment with us. We thank you all very much and hope that you will stay with us for the years to come. There is however, one very special volunteer whom we must acknowledge. She helps us on a regular basis with sending kennels, receiving adopted animals and making sure that Canadian tourists don't go to Cuba with empty hands. Thank you Lynn Wodzak for your time and your exceptional friendship.
We also want to thank Ellen Walsh and Susan Meyers for their support (Susan had a bottle drive in Edmonton and collected almost a thousand dollars later spent on medical supplies).

Lynn with Buffy and Lily, a Cuban stray she adopted.

Plans for the Future
We expect to grow and to have more and more impact on welfare of Cuban animals - not only pets and stray dogs and cats, but also working animals, like horses. We plan to spend more time on education and prevention programs addressed to children because it will be up to them to change their country to a place where all animals are cared for and respected.

Again, thank you all who have contributed to our success. We wish you a Very Merry Christmas - full of love for each other and hope for our beautiful planet.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." 
N. Mandela

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Autumn Update

Long overdue, here is an update on our latest activities:

Two teams were working during the last two months - one headed by Dr. Gladis Ochoa, another one by Dr. Slavik Zenkov. As a result, 80 animals were spayed/neutered (45 dogs and 35 cats). There were also several 'ad hoc' surgeries. Over 800 animals have been sterilized so far in 2011. The surgeries are great opportunity for animal health technicians to learn new skills, and for the public to learn the benefits of pet sterilizations. Everybody is welcome to watch the doctors work (from a safe distance, of course).

Dr. Slavik Zenkov during the surgery

Dr. Gladis Ochoa's team sterilized 34 animals during 2.5 hours clinic on October 15, 2011

The solution to any problem starts from being aware. Learning what to do and how, comes next. Knowing the basics of cats and dogs biology is an important component of understanding the reason of their overpopulation. Proper care for pets is a part of the solution to the stray animals problem. All linked.
We choose to believe that most Cubans are concerned about the well being of their own pets and the street animals but they don't always know what to do about it, where to start. We are trying to empower people by giving them the knowledge they need. In addition to spay/neuter clinics we participate in radio programs and lectures. We also have some printed materials available.
Recently, Dr. Hanoi Dominguez and Dr. Slavik Zenkov were invited to the Agricultural University of Havana (Universidad Agraria de La Habana) to give lectures on animal welfare. Dr. Zenkov prepared a presentation about APAC's work in Matanzas Province. Both lectures had a great feed-back from the audience.

Dr. Hanoi Dominguez lecturing at the university in Havana

Circulating our brochures

As you know, we support local adoptions as one of the ways of reducing the number of street animals. Several animals were placed in their new loving homes recently, including a half-blind puppy in Matanzas. We also help tourists from Canada, and other countries, to adopt an animal that they meet during their stay in Varadero. We do not support the idea of what we call 'bulk adoptions', where the big number of animals is brought to Canada and placed in rescue organizations. Sometimes however, the circumstances leave us with an animal rescued from an exceptionally difficult situation with no immediate adoption available. At the present time, we have two dogs waiting for adoption: Hoya and Nilo. Hoya was brought months ago and is still waiting for the permanent home. Nilo was saved from a horrific injury not long ago, and he has no chance of finding a proper home in Cuba. He is in perfect condition now and ready to start a new life. We are looking into a possibility of bringing both dogs to Canada and asking one of the Canadian rescue organizations for help.

Hoya - mother of six beautiful puppies that were adopted
Nilo - brought back to life after his neck was cut with a machete

We strongly believe in networking and mutual support of like-minded organizations. More can be achieved through exchange of knowledge and experience than by acting alone. Spanky Project is a Canadian organization established in 2003 in Ontario, and working for the welfare of Cuban animals in the Havana neighbourhoods. Terry Shewchuk, the leader of the Spanky Project organizes several clinics, travelling to Cuba with a team of Canadian veterinary science professionals on a regular basis. Our own Dr. Slavik Zenkov was invited to the Spanky's latest clinic. It was a great event and we plan to join our forces in the future. Thank you Terry!

The Spanky Project team

"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success."