Animal welfare groups urge governor to sign rescue bill

By John McPhaul

The San Francisco de Asís Animal Sanctuary Inc. on Tuesday urged the signing of Senate Bill 1621, which would allow veterinarians from the United States and Canada to offer their services temporarily and free of charge in community benefit events such as the Spayathon for Puerto Rico.

The bill, authored by Sen. Miguel Romero, has been under consideration by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced since July 9.

As provided in the Puerto Rico Constitution, once the ordinary legislative session ends, the governor has 30 days to sign the bills that are sent to her for consideration. That 30-day period ends Friday.

“If it becomes law, this measure will allow animal welfare organizations to receive the help we need to continue fighting against the overpopulation of animals in Puerto Rico and to prevent so many homeless dogs and cats from suffering and dying on the streets,” said Stella Ramírez, vice president of the San Francisco de Asís Animal Sanctuary.

“For this reason, we invite the governor to be a heroine of animal welfare and to sign Senate Bill 1621 into law,” she added. “On June 11, after a meeting with rescuers, she expressed full support for Spayathon for Puerto Rico; we trust that she will honor those words by stamping her signature on the legislative bill.”

Since 2018, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has conducted six rounds of the Spayathon for Puerto Rico, a free spaying and neutering initiative involving 52,524 dogs and cats.

“Spayathon has been designed as a series of temporary clinics: just one week, three times a year,” Ramírez said. “In addition to being operated on, the strays are vaccinated against rabies. More than 60 percent of the animals that come to these clinics have never received veterinary services. And it’s not because the guardians don’t love those pets. It is simply because they did not have the economic access or the resources to go to a veterinary clinic.”

According to HSUS data, 63.9 percent of the animals seen in the six rounds of Spayathon had never visited a vet; 70.72 percent of dogs and cats five months and older had never been vaccinated against rabies, and it was possible to prevent the birth of 316,680 animals (during the first year after the surgeries).

“Spayathon’s clinics have helped tens of thousands of animals. Beyond spay and neuter services, pets are also vaccinated and receive food, as well as other donations, totally free of cost,” Ramírez said. “Despite the fact that we have been able to attend to so many, much remains to be done.”

She also pointed out that all the people who work in the initiative do so voluntarily, either requesting vacation days or going without pay from their jobs.

“The teams have not earned any money for working at Spayathon,” Ramírez said. “The grant that each team receives [from USHS] per round is invested to cover the expenses of lodging and food for the volunteers and veterinarians, as well as in the purchase of resources and materials necessary for the optimal operation of the clinics.”

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