Editor’s note: Hillary Kloetzli is founder of Nepal Street Animal Rescue, based in Portland, Oregon, USA, which is a full partner with Sneha’s Care, responsible for fundraising, corporate sponsorships, donor relations, overseas adoptions, media inquiries, public relations and volunteer inquiries. Hillary worked alongside Sneha’s team and World Vets International Aid for Animals during the 3-day sterilization campaign discussed in this post.
In November of 2017, a team of veterinarians, vet techs, vet students and volunteers arrived in Nepal for the first time to work hand in hand with Sneha’s Care staff and volunteers with the goal of sterilizing 200-300 street dogs in three days. Together we sterilized over 220 dogs. The World Vets team also stepped in to perform some complex surgeries for several of our own resident shelter dogs including amputations, tumor and eye removals, and large wound closures.
The team of 16 from World Vets had never worked together before and it was also a first for the team at Sneha’s Care to have so many people and dogs in the shelter at one time. Not only did we face the challenge of bringing 200-300 street dogs into the shelter in a 3-day period, but we also had to keep our 135 resident dogs enclosed in their caged areas from morning until evening!
After the first day of working together, getting our systems into place and witnessing six veterinary teams performing together for the first time, as if they had worked together for a decade, I was overwhelmed with emotion to be a part of a project that would spare so many dogs from having litter after litter of puppies who would have to eke out a life on the streets themselves, and repeat the cycle, again and again. Watching these dedicated and gifted surgeons and veterinary assistants coming together to help our Nepali dogs moved many of us to tears…it was finally happening. It was our first major step in working with the international community to stop the breeding cycle and end the suffering of the often forgotten, neglected and abused street dogs in Nepal. Fortunately for us and the many street dogs who still need to be sterilized, World Vets will be returning in 2018!
Cleaning and Enjoying Quiet Time at the Shelter Before World Vets Arrived
Prior to the arrival of the World Vets team at the shelter, Sneha’s Care staff and volunteers worked for four long days preparing the shelter for their arrival. We painted, we cleaned and sterilized, we moved cages and relocated our resident dogs to other enclosures within the shelter, we set-up the prep and surgical areas, we worked hard, we got dirty and we had fun! All of this additional activity while still managing the daily needs of our 135 resident shelter dogs.
After our four days of prep, the World Vets team of sixteen arrived for the 3-day sterilization project. The team was joined by Nepali veterinary interns, as well as by Sneha’s staff. World Vets is a US-based charity—most of the team members were from the United States. Each of the team members paid their own way for their trip and many utilized their vacation time to come to Nepal to help these street dogs.
Capturing, Transporting, and Moving the Dogs into the Shelter
Many of the 220 dogs caught and captured for sterilization came from areas that were identified as dense with street dogs in and around Nepal’s capitol city, Kathmandu. We utilized three teams to go out to the designated areas to capture both female and male dogs for sterilization and vaccination. Some of the dogs we captured required other medical attention which the World Vets team addressed during the sterilization surgery. Capturing this many dogs was no easy task for our team. By the end of day 2, we quickly realized that we were reaching our space capacity for bringing in more dogs. We had to return the sterilized dogs back to their communities where they were captured within a 24-hour period to make room for incoming dogs on day 3. Most sterilization camps return dogs the same day as sterilization if there are no complications during surgery. Sneha and her team decided to keep most of the dogs brought in for 24 hours, and those with more complex issues were kept until they were fully able to leave with no risk of infection or bleeding.
Documenting Street Dog Arrival at the Shelter
The moment a street dog was unloaded from the truck and the tags on their crates read off to identify the area where the dogs had been captured, they were tagged with their capture site, documented to ensure that all dogs could and would be returned to the community from which they were taken. It is vital that each and every dog that is captured during the course of one of these large sterilization projects be returned to the exact spot where they were taken from. It is the only home they know—a place where they can find food, water and have a sense of safety amongst the local crew of street dogs. They even know the people who will feed them, places and people to avoid, and the flow of traffic on the streets. It is there “home” and they must be released back to the capture spot.
Vaccinations and Pre-Surgery Sedative
After the new street dogs were logged into the project folder they were then vaccinated for rabies and given a light pre-surgery sedative. All dogs coming into the shelter for either a short term stay or long term veterinary care are routinely vaccinated and given flea medicine. In cases of mild skin disease (mange), the dogs are also given Bravecto which has been shown to cure even the worst cases of mange in street dogs.
After a dog had finished the intake process and was given its vaccination and sedation shots, it was held until its number was called. Once its number was called, it was brought out of the intake area and handed off to a volunteer to hold until its number was called again for pre-surgery preparation.
Once a street dog’s number was called, they were escorted by a volunteer to the waiting World Vet veterinary technicians to be given their catheter and to be shaved and wiped down with antiseptic to sterilize the surgical area. If a surgical team was ready for their next dog, the dog would be “knocked down” or put into a light sleep, have its bladder emptied and be carried by a Sneha’s Care team volunteer to the open operating table. There were up to 4 vet techs doing pre-surgery prep with the help of several of the Sneha’s Care volunteers and several Nepali veterinary interns. It was an amazing opportunity for volunteers to learn how dogs are prepped for surgery and how to assist a tech in this preparation process.
Once the street dogs were anesthetized, they were then carried by a Sneha’s Care volunteer to an open surgical table. There were always 5–6 surgical teams operating at full speed for up to 8–9 hours a day with a small break for lunch. Once a dog was placed on the table, it was then hooked up to an IV and intubated. The sterilization was then performed with precision, as if these World Vets’ veterinarians and technicians had been working together for years and not just simply hours. Several of the street dogs also required tumor removals as well as other surgical procedures in addition to their sterilizations.
Recovery, Waiting to Leave, and Release
Once a street dog had been sterilized, carried by a volunteer into recovery where it was monitored until the anesthesia had worn off and the dog was deemed stable and alert, it was then transported to the waiting area with the other dogs who were also recovering. Once all dogs were deemed ready to be loaded into crates and onto the trucks to be delivered back to the community in which they were captured, they were on their way to freedom once more. If a dog was in need of additional time to recover from a complex surgery or if it experienced any additional medical intervention, it was kept at the shelter until it was fully recovered and then returned to its community. Prior to any dog leaving the shelter it was given a dose of flea medicine and was de-wormed as well.
Two Street Dogs Adopted by World Vets Veterinarians
In addition to the high volume of dogs treated, two street dogs were adopted and flown back to the USA with veterinarians from World Vets who simply couldn’t resist the dogs they chose.
Veterinarian Michelle adopted a very small puppy who had lost all of his toes and most of the skin up to his elbow joint on his front leg. She said she took one look at him and decided that she needed to try and save his leg…plus she said she was a “sucker” for a truly injured puppy. The puppy has been named Sherpa and is happily living with veterinarian Michelle who says that Sherpa’s leg is looking good and the prognosis of him keeping it is excellent.
Veterinarian Stacy saw a small black and white male dog with an injured back leg, hanging around her hotel and witnessed him run away when confronted by people trying to make him leave the hotel area, but when a tourist approached he would immediately roll over onto his back for a belly rub and ham it up in order to get some love and maybe some food. She couldn’t resist this hotel dog and decided the least she could do was bring him to Sneha’s Care to have him neutered, vaccinated, have his leg checked out, and give him some extra special attention for a day or two. Veterinarian Stacy brought the hotel dog to the shelter and within a day, she knew he was going home with her. She named her new dog Momo which means “dumpling” in Nepali. Momo flew in cargo to Seattle, Washington several weeks after veterinarian Stacy left Nepal. Momo was greeted at home by two new doggie siblings and has very quickly adapted to being an American dog. Within 3 days of arrival in the USA, vet Stacy loaded Momo and her two other dogs into an RV and headed out to go cross country, stopping all over the USA to visit friends and family and take in the sights. Momo is having the time of his life and is thriving as a new family member.
Street Dog Sterilization Project Wrap-Up
The sixteen World Vets volunteers came to work alongside Sneha’s Care team members and volunteers to conduct a sterilization and vaccination program over a 3-day period…but as these things often have a way of doing, it turned into something much bigger. As a team we sterilized and vaccinated 220 dogs, but we also conducted several amputations on our own resident dogs, removed tumors from both street dogs and resident dogs and even did two eye removals. All of these complex surgeries were done with a member of World Vets working alongside Sneha’s Care veterinary staff.
After those three long, busy days we all gathered the next night in our clean clothes for a celebratory dinner and drinks on the rooftop of a hotel in the Thamel tourist area of Kathmandu. There was much to discuss and our hopes at Sneha’s Care were high that we had been able to provide a good experience for the World Vets team so that they would return the next year to sterilize even more dogs than the first year. The news is good! World Vets will be sending another team to Nepal in November of 2018. We are all looking forward to having an even greater number of dogs sterilized in 2018 and making new friends, learning new veterinary techniques, working hard, getting dirty, giving a street dog a little human kindness for a day or two and having some fun knowing that the work we do makes a difference in the lives of many street dogs.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at World Vets please visit their website at worldvets.org.
To learn more about volunteering at Sneha’s Care, adopting one of our resident shelter dogs or to make a donation to support our ongoing sterilization and street dog rescue efforts please visit snehacare.com.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Hillary’s follow-up post about Momo and Sherpa as well as Maddie—three former Nepali street dogs adapting to their new lives with families in the USA. You can read Hillary’s 3-part series on Maddie’s journey here. How have these three dogs from the streets of Kathmandu adapted to life in the USA? Hillary will share their stories next month.
Latest posts by Hillary Kloetzli (see all)
- Sneha’s Care Rescue and World Vets Team Up To Reduce Street Dog Overpopulation in Nepal - January 17, 2018
- Maddie’s Story Part 3: Forever Home - July 14, 2017
- Maddie’s Story Part 2: From Kathmandu to New York - May 15, 2017