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Help Feed the Homeless Animals of Chile


      10 April 2015
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    I wanted to send you a quick email to thank you for your donation on my givealittle page and to let you know how the trip has been so far! It has been an incredible experience which had been life changing and I hope that it has helped motivate and inspire others in Chile to help the abandoned animals. Apologies for this email being rushed and poorly written but I only have a half hour break!

    As you know, I have been travelling Chile since 5 February, volunteering as a Veterianary Nurse to help as many abused and abandoned street animals as I can. I knew that I was going to see a lot of abuse and neglect on this trip but nothing could have prepared me for the horrific things I have seen. The problem is worse than I could have ever imagined in Chile and is treated as a cultural norm by most of the people. There are WELL OVER 3 million street dogs in Chile. From what I have seen I think the number of street dogs and the neglect is a reflection of a culture which sees the dogs as objects and not living creatures, little to no support from the government to help the situation, no real media attention and no education to teach people about how to care for animals or why sterilization is important. In every city I have visited in Chile I have noticed a culture of the people which does not understand the importance of sterilization or responsible ownership. Because of this trend many people refuse to sterilize their animals and let them roam the streets to reproduce, then when the puppies are born they abandon them or even worse kill them. The key to addressing this is EDUCATION! Children in schools should be taught about animal ownership and there should be campaigns on every television channel explaining the importance of sterilization and where they can go to have their animal sterilized for free. People need to understand that one female dog and her offspring

    can potentially produce 66,000 dogs in just 6 years. In Puerto Montt we hired a community hall for one day where a Veterinarian and I sterilized over 60 dogs and 20 cats in just one day, we worked all day until late at night in terrible unhygienic conditions. We sterilized animals from the street and we spoke to locals and asked if we could sterilize their animals for free, I was shocked that 99% of the people we asked said no. They did not want their animal sterilized because ´they did not believe in sterilization´.

    Every day of this trip, I have met with officials in local governments (and the main government), appeared on live television, featured in over 5 newspapers and appeared live on 2 different radio networks. I have worked at refuges, treated dogs on the street for mange and parasites and injuries, visited landfills, operated in surgeries to sterilize animals, arranged mass street protests and met with so many people. I had hoped to meet the president but I received a letter from her saying that she would not meet with me sadly. I have not given up hope of one day meeting her though. ´ho

    Before I arrived the President announced a new law allowing dogs to be shot dead if they were 400 metres out of a city. What kind of message is this meant to send to the people about the government´s stance on animal welfare???? In every city I went to I attended mass street protests and demonstrations and I met with officials to talk to them about this law. I am very pleased to announce that the government has now announced that this law is now on ´hold´ and likely to be cancelled.

    There are many groups of people which work hard to feed and sterilize the animals but there are too many dogs for these volunteers to help. The other day I was in a small town called Limache and I stayed at a refuge for abused dogs and farm animals (including horses, donkeys, goats, llamas, pigs, chickens, etc), this refuge cannot afford to feed all the animals they have. We had to wait until the local fruit and vegetable market finished and then we went down there in a ute and on our hands and knees we picked up all the rotting vegetables on the ground that we could find so we could feed the animals that day. At this market I saw dogs in the worst condition I have ever seen, they were not even recognisable as dogs at first, they were so emaciated and bald and swollen from the mange and parasites but this group was struggling to even feed the animals it already had and did not have the resources to help any more animals. At this refuge the people lived in shacks, we had to all share a bed at night and we worked all day cleaning and feeding the hundreds of animals. That is an example of the conditions that people trying to help face.

    Some examples of the abuse I have seen which is a normality in Chile include: In Santiago when I was walking to an animal shelter I witnessed a man in a car that sped up and swerved to ensure he would run over a cat on the road in front of my eyes, this cat did not die instantly and it was horrific and sickening for me to hold this cat in my arms until it passed. Another example is of a drunk man on Tenglo Island (Puerto Montt) who took a machete and tried to decapitate a dog, this dog was so terrified, I tried for an hour to catch him to take him to a clinic but even with such bad injuries he was impossible to catch. The incident which made me most upset would probably be the woman in Lenga (Concepcion) who saw me on the street with my stethoscope injecting dogs on the street for mange who came running across the road holding her cat by the neck which had been attacked by dogs 2 MONTHS earlier. The cat was in a very bad condition, the tail was skinned to the boned and was so infected and swollen that I was surprised it was alive, the worst part was that she had the money to pay for treatment and she had a car she was just too lazy to seek help. I took this cat off the woman and put it in a cardboard box and travelled over an hour by public bus back to Concepcion where I found a vet clinic where the tail was amputated (the smell on the bus was HORRIFIC), after the cats tail was amputated and he had recovered I then had to take the cat back to her because there was literally no where else the cat could go except for the street While feeding and treating the street dogs for mange and parasites I have had many locals come up to me and tell me that I should not feed them or help them, I try and smile and explain to these people that they are living creatures and deserve respect and love. I have also had many people come up to me on the street and thank me for helping the animals when they cannot and many other people and children smile (which makes me feel like a difference is being made).

    I have visited the landfills in each city. The landfills are a place where people who are sick of their animals or no longer want them come to abandon them. It is just terrible. In Antofagasta there were over 400 dogs in just that one spot of the landfill I went to. Many had mange and infected wounds. I fed all the dogs and treated for mange and parasites and cleaned the wounds. At this particular landfill was a little old man who had no money and lives in a tiny shack, his name is Don Fernando, he had such an impact on me. He never went to school so cannot read or write and must be about 70 years old. Even though he has nothing he looks after the abandoned dogs and gives them love (he cannot afford food so a local group bring dog food every Sunday to him). Amongst the hundreds of dogs I spotted 2 little poodles, they were filthy and their eyes had no hope. Don Fernando told me that one week earlier a woman threw these 2 dogs out of her car window and drove off. The landfill is bad enough for the large dogs there but for 2 young tiny poodles there is no way they would survive, one already had a bad bite wound on his leg so the next day I decided I would go back to the landfill to get these 2 poodles. That night I thought a lot about the Don Fernando so when I woke I went by bicycle to the super market and got as much healthy and tinned food as I could carry to give to him and I wrote him a note to tell him that his kindness had inspired me. When I got to the landfill to get the poodles and I gave him the food he cried, it was very emotional. THAT IS a photo of me giving Don Fernando the food I got him that is a photo of the poodles I took. I tried desperately to try to find them a home in Antofagasta but nobody would take them so I made the decision to fly them back to Santiago with me, where they are now staying in the house I am staying in. I have tried the last month to find someone to adopt these dogs, but NO BODY in Santiago will take them. There is a stigma around ´street dogs´ so people with money generally only buy dogs, and those that volunteer with animals already have houses with 50 dogs in them. SO I have made the decision to bring them back to New Zealand, I have given them every required vaccination etc and in 6 months time they will be tested to show they are free from rabies and will be eligible to enter NZ. It is a long, hard and expensive process but these dogs deserve a better life, I only wish I could bring every dog from that landfill home. that is a photo of what the poodles look like now. I treated the bite wounds they had on their legs, I cleaned and shaved them and I vaccinated them and de wormed them. I also got them leashes and collars and i walk them every day. It is amazing to see the difference already, they were depressed and terrified at the landfill and now they are full of happiness and love cuddles and exploring everything. I think another week at that landfill and they would have been dead.

    If you have a look at my timeline you will see my posts with more stories of what I have seen this is a picture of me and the veterinarian sterilizing street animals in Puerto Montt. we sterilized over 60 dogs and 20 cats in just ONE DAY, we worked all day until late at night in a community hall which we turned into a make shift surgery. It was not hygienic, we had one set of utensils, limited needles, and only one bottle of disinfectant. There was no oxygen machine or breathing tubes but we worked with what we had given the very limited money and resources.

    My Cystic Fibrosis was well under control despite me working every day until late at night in unhygienic conditions until a few weeks ago when I started to get very sick. With no insurance (I was not eligible) and no money I was in a bit of a panic but a very kind doctor saw me for free and gave me antibiotics and steroids which seem to be helping abit, I can now breathe a bit better. I knew it was a real risk me coming to a third world country when I have Cystic Fibrosis but I knew this was something I just had to do.

    Throughout this trip I have met some INCREDIBLE people. People with nothing that give their lives to try and help the animals of Chile. These people have opened their homes and have let me stay with their families, I have been so fortunate and am so grateful for the kindness that these people have shown me. It has truly been a once in a life time trip and had motivated me even more to help change the situation of Chile. I will be working my butt off once I get back to try and make enough money for a flight so I can return to Chile (hopefully in 6 months) so I can spend 2 months here again. I really feel like this trip has made a difference, but there is so much more work that I want to do here.

    Your donation has let me buy dog food, injectable mange treatment solution, needles and syringes, anti parasite tablets, vet treatment costs and I have made donations to the refuges which needed it most. Thank you so much.

    Please feel free to forward this email to any one or to contact me if you would like to talk!!!!! I return to New Zealand on 18 April!!!



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