The Dogs of Curaçao. It sounds like an adventure novel. However, this is the story of Amsterdam vet Sjoerd Wardt who crossed the Atlantic again recently to help out on the island of Curaçao. Sjoerd is the owner of a veterinary clinic in Amsterdam called the Dierenkliniek De Wetering, very close to the Rijksmuseum. He has spent his whole professional life helping all kinds of animals to live well. Any pet owner will tell you how important a vet is when their pets are ill and need urgent help. We are so connected to our pets. They really are one of the family and our feelings for them are very strong. This is especially true in recent times when lots of people got pets in order to have more company. So what was Sjoerd doing in Curaçao? He was definitely not on holiday. He was helping to reduce the problem of stray dogs on the island. This is not an issue we often see in Amsterdam. In Curaçao, however, it is a real problem as there are over 40,000 stray dogs! Can you imagine! We caught up with Sjoerd recently and here is a Q+A we did with the man himself about The Dogs of Curaçao.
We have never been to Curaçao, but the image we have of it is that of a beautiful island paradise in the Caribbean. However, as stated above, there is an enormous problem with stray dogs. In order to try to keep this issue in check, Sjord and other vets recently returned to the island in order to relieve the issue. He was part of a team of five vets that included the well-known TV vet Piet Hellemans. They work together with many other vets in a charitable association with the aim of reducing the number of stray dogs on the island. They do this by neutering the dogs in order to try to keep the numbers under control. In just over a week the team neutered 400 dogs. Let’s hear more from Sjoerd in this Q+A .
Thanks, Sjoerd for your answers on this very interesting topic.
q1. Sjoerd, please tell us more about your charity association and its goals.
Multiple charities were involved in this project, amongst others Rescue Paws Curaçao and the Feed Friends Foundation. They did not only provide financial aid but also took care of numerous volunteers to make this project a success. With 5 vets, you need 5 vet nurses to administer medication and assist during surgeries, volunteers monitoring the dogs while waking up, volunteers helping to collect the animals, keeping track of which dog had which medication, tick and flea treatments, aftercare, but also providing food and drinks for everyone involved etc. We started every day before 8 AM, and at least 20 volunteers were already busy at that time. The goal was to neuter 400 (mainly female) dogs in 10 days, and with these high numbers, it is important that you keep realizing that every dog is an individual which needs the highest attention and best care.
q2. It is quite a problem in Curaçao. What would happen to the stray dogs without your interventions?
The dogs themselves would have a shorter life span. Having a litter twice per year is exhausting, and there is not enough food for the litter plus the bitch. But the most important, there will be less litters. Most puppies will not survive their first year, which is of course immense suffering for the puppies involved. We are not only helping the dogs but also preventing future suffering.
q3. Is it all pain-free for the dogs?
I am afraid it is not. Of course, the animals undergo sedation and get good pain medication during surgery and recovery. In our clinic in Amsterdam, we give extra pain medication for the following days. For most of these dogs, it is not possible to give medication when they are awake. So there will be some pain and discomfort during the days after surgery.
By the time we left, 404 dogs were neutered, and all of them survived. Some surgeries proved very challenging due to concurrent conditions causing blood clotting issues. As a vet, it is important to do no harm, and although you know the risk and know you are helping the dog and preventing future suffering, every animal that dies in your care is a drama. So you can imagine the joy we felt after the project was finished.
q4. Is it just the dogs? What other animals are in a similar situation?
Cats have a similar situation, and there are cat charities in Curaçao that organize similar projects, for example, the Kitten Rescue Curaçao Foundation. I have plans to attend them in the future as well.
q5. You are a very busy vet in Amsterdam. What are the main ways you help people and their pets?
We are a clinic for all companion animals. So not just dogs and cats, but also for example rabbits, guinea pigs, and more unusual animals like snakes, tortoises and hedgehogs. We also see many stray pigeons, which are brought in by volunteers who provide necessary aftercare.
The goal is to keep animals healthy. We achieve this aim through annual checks, which help us with early recognition of the disease, and the right preventative care, which we advise for each animal individually. Not all dogs and cats need monthly anti-parasite treatment for example.
In case of discomfort or disease, we look for the cause and discuss the treatment options with the owner. Often, there are several ways to help an animal. We look at the animal, owner and finances and make the best possible treatment plan.
Thank you, Sjoerd for these very interesting insights into the good work you do to improve the lives of the dogs of Curaçao.
To know more about Sjoerd and his veterinary clinic in Amsterdam, here are the contact details:
Direnkliniek De Wetering website
Address: Weteringschans 141, 1017 SE Amsterdam
Tel: 020 622 1884
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