They say that every dog has its day. In Granada, that day has finally come for the thousand-plus stray canines that wander the streets in search of food, or lie huddled and sick on the sidewalk, too weak to scavenge. Granada last month opened the doors to the country’s first free animal clinic for pets and strays.
The Casa Lupita animal clinic opened as a collaborative effort between the New York-based humane group People Protecting Animals and Their Habitats (PATH) and local do-gooder Donna Tabor, who has worked here for the past decade helping underprivileged children and animals with backing from Pittsburgh group Building New Hope.
The clinic, located behind Guadalupe Church on Calle Libertad, offers universal health care to street animals and workhorses. With free medication, free surgery, state-of-the-art equipment, short lines and virtually no paperwork, Casa Lupita is arguably the most comprehensive and accessible public health-care system in the country…only it’s just for animals.
The clinic, staffed by several visiting U.S. veterinarians and several Nicaraguan veterinarian students from Managua, offers spay and neutering services to all dogs and cats, plus provides animals with their shots and treats them for mange and other skin afflictions.
Though the numbers haven’t been crunched yet, Casa Lupita’s annual operating budget is expected to cost upwards of $80,000 in private donations and funding, according to PATH executive director Kelly Overton. “This is like opening up a hospital with no income,” Overton said.
Public Health Issue
By treating animals, Casa Lupita hopes to have a positive impact on Granada’s public- health situation as a whole.
“This is a community health issue,” said Tabor. “The dogs carry parasites, they scavenge and they spread garbage around on the streets. They also pose a risk of rabies.”
When the clinic is running at full-steam with two vets and a nurse, it expects to be able to operate on 40 dogs and cats each day. By treating the stray animals to make them healthier, and taking steps to manage their population (which Overton calculates to be in the thousands), Casa Lupita aims to have the street-dog situation under control in the next five years.
“It’s not that there won’t be any more street dogs left, but there will be fewer, and they will be healthier,” Overton said.
The clinic’s organizers claim that the public’s response to Casa Lupita’s opening has been very positive, not only from the expats who are grateful to finally have competent veterinary care in Granada, but also from the Nicaraguans.
In the clinic’s first days of operation, many local residents from surrounding neighborhoods came by to bring their pets or a street animal that they wanted to adopt.
“The response is good, and it has all happened by word of mouth,”Overton said. “We had some kids come in one morning with their horses, and they waited for three hours to get them checked out.”
The clinic also plans to start teaching classes to children on the importance of treating animals kindly, with the help of Spanish-language material from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Horse of a Different Color
Casa Lupita and PATH, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Granada, are also preparing to implement a health-card program for the 1,200 workhorses that pull carts, carriages and wagons through town, according to Overton.
The program, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks by the Mayor’s Office, will require the owners of workhorses to keep their animals clean, well-fed and healthy.
The animals will be subject to annual checkups to ensure that they are in good health. If they pass their physical, the horses will be given a health card that their owners or cart drivers will have to keep on-hand at all times. The checkups will be provided free-of-charge by PATH.
Police will be permitted to stop horses that appear sickly and request to see the animal’s bill of health. If the health papers are expired, or the animal appears overworked or ill, the owner can be fined and the animal can be sent to the bullpen to recuperate for a week.
Overton acknowledges that many local residents need their horses to earn a living, and says this will be taken into consideration when determining standards of animal treatment.
The health-card program is not intended to punish people,Overton said. Instead its aim is to ensure animal health – a situation that Overton claims should be viewed as win-win.
“If the horses are healthy, they will work better and people will be more productive,” the animal activist said. “Plus, it will allow both the people and their animals to work with more dignity.”
For more information on Casa Lupita, check out www.ppath.org, or e-mail Tabor at [email protected]