Thanks to the generosity of the OJ Club Travel Fund administered by John Bettridge, Tobias Mussett (Eagle - 2018) who is training to become a vet, recently undertook surgical experience in Spain.
His report is as follows:
"Currently there are between 150,000 and 300,000 animals abandoned in Spain each year, equating to three animals abandoned every five minutes. Not only is this a massive welfare problem for the animals themselves, but the subsequent breeding creates more strays which compounds the problem and proposes a significant public health risk to both humans and animals alike.
Many charity organizations aim to offer medical intervention and rehoming for these strays, but their funds for neutering and surgical procedures are limited. Neuter Clinic Spain is a program that aims to address both issues by offering intensive soft tissue surgery practice, thus allowing these stray animals to receive medical care and the opportunity to find new homes.
By utilizing vets and students wanting to gain surgical experience away from the commercial pressure of working in a business, this one small group is playing a small but valuable part in making a difference. I am fortunate that through the generous sponsorship of Hurstpierpoint College and the University of Bristol, I have been able to join them briefly for a placement offering surgical practice involving castrates and spays in both dogs and cats as part of a wider rehoming and population control scheme.
In total, half a dozen vet students started the week at the Los Barrios Dog Shelter. Working in pairs, the days were split into two with one of the pair acting as anesthetist and the other as surgeon before swapping over. As the anesthetist, the responsibilities included induction, catheterisation, intubation, and monitoring the animals’ reflexes and vital signs. This has close similarities with routine human operations. During this first day we dealt with a dozen dogs and bitches needing surgical castration or spaying, as a prerequisite to their eventual rehoming.
Being used to the state-of-the-art facilities that we have in the UK, as the week progressed the financial struggles faced by charities became painfully obvious. The following day saw us operating in an outhouse attached to the resident surgeon’s home and by the end of the week we were working in a garage with bikes on the wall, tables supported on paint tins, and angle-poise lights.
Whilst the dogs are found new homes, this is not a practical solution for the cats as they are to some extent feral. In one long day we neutered forty cats who had been brought in by the local cat catcher. These cats then had a small part of their ear tip cut so that they would not be returned, before being released back into their respective colonies.
In total, we treated over 110 animals over five days. It may have only scratched the surface of the problem, but it exposed us to some kind and dedicated people who are determined to make a difference, working for very little money, and without kudos or thanks. For my own part, the highlight was the accidental discovery of a rare ovarian tumour, with the subsequent operation providing a good prognosis for the cat and taking it out of a considerable amount of discomfort. As a consequence of this placement my confidence in my surgical skills has grown immeasurably, and I should like to thank all those who made it possible."