Spayathon stays; governor signs pet legislation

By John McPhaul

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced signed Senate Bill 1621 on Wednesday to create the Provisional Licenses Act for the Practice of Veterinary Medicine Free of Charge to the Public.

The measure also amends the Puerto Rico Veterinary Medicine Practice Act to establish a provisional license for licensed veterinary physicians, technicians, and technologists from other U.S. jurisdictions and Canada to practice veterinary medicine free of charge.

“These provisional licenses to veterinary doctors from other jurisdictions go hand in hand with our public policy to protect pets and address the problem of overcrowding of cats and dogs on our streets. This represents an act of social responsibility and [provides] the care they need when they are often mistreated or abandoned,” the governor said. “Furthermore, we are offering these free services to a population that may not have access to veterinary services and we are allowing animal welfare organizations to receive the necessary help to continue fighting animal overpopulation in Puerto Rico. In this way we prevent there being so many homeless animals suffering and dying on the streets.”

The measure, authored by Sen. Miguel Romero Lugo, includes events aimed at sterilization, vaccination, education, preventive care, and treatment of animals free of cost to the public, as has been the case with Spayathon for Puerto Rico.

Referring to the judicial order that declared Executive Orders 2020-15 and 2020-18 null and void, regarding the granting of dispensations to veterinarians who are not licensed in Puerto Rico, Vázquez said it jeopardizes the possibility of future rounds of the Spayathon for Puerto Rico program or the occurrence of similar programs since they depend heavily on the support of veterinarians duly licensed in their home jurisdictions to offer free vaccination and sterilization surgeries in clinics.

Romero Lugo said: “I am thankful to those who supported this measure because it remedied an impediment that had been created for these vaccination, sterilization, especially education services to be carried out.”

“These mass events for many of the people are the first time that they are able to access this treatment. It was important to ensure this continuity,” he said. “I thank entities, veterinary doctors, and the governor of Puerto Rico who stated that they are in favor of this measure. As she says, we are a society that encourages us to be a people sensitive to animal welfare. I recognize the support, the signing of measures that are transcendent for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, applauded the governor’s decision and welcomed the signing of the bill.

“We thank Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced for signing a bill that will increase access to veterinary services in Puerto Rico. Our thanks also to Senator Miguel Romero for taking the necessary measures to present this important legislation that will benefit countless animals over the years to come,” Block said. “Spayathon is an unprecedented activity that has cared for over 50,000 animals, offering help for population control and control of sick animals and helping low-income people to offer the care that these additional members of their family need. In fact, that event in February positioned Puerto Rico worldwide as the country with the highest number of rescued pets and animals cared for.”

“Last June, after a meeting with rescuers, I expressed my support for Spayathon for Puerto Rico,” she added. “Today we backed up words with action with the signing of the legislation.”

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