Robin Michael is used to most people in the United States knowing the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
After all, Bob Barker pounded it into our heads after every episode of “The Price is Right.”
But Michael, a veterinarian at Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital, doesn’t always get the same response when she takes veterinary mission trips to Mexico and Central America.
“It really is worth it, not only to help the animals and the people but to get the message out,” Michael says.
Michael has been on four mission trips to Mexico and one in January to Costa Rica. She also has done two trips to American Indian reservations in the United States.
The trips are through Veterinarios Internacionales Dedicados a Animales Sanos (International Veterinarians Dedicated to Animal Health, or VIDAS), which is based at Colorado State University, where she attended veterinary school.
During the Costa Rica trip, which was to Central Pacific city of San Isidro el General, Michael said completed 250 spaying and neutering surgeries over five days, mostly on dogs. The 30 veterinarians and CSU veterinary students also treated dogs for worms and administered other vaccinations.
“They’re pets, but ‘pets’ down there means something different,” Michael says. “They might be a dog down the street they lay claim to. ... The majority of the dogs live outside. They run around and can get whatever diseases and fleas and ticks are around.”
Veterinary students did fundraising for the trip, including soliciting donations of vaccinations and other supplies from drug companies.
While there, the volunteers stayed with host families.
“They were so grateful and thankful for our efforts,” Michael says of the Costa Ricans.
But just because the volunteers left doesn’t mean the work is over. Veterinarians in Costa Rica will continue to spread the word about controlling the pet population.
“Exponentially it does make a big difference” to have spayed and neutered 250 animals. “But a lot of it does have to rely on the local veterinarians.”