July 23, 2009

Political Response Needed on Sanitation in Iquitos, Requena & River Zones

Street sanitation issues pose a multitude of obvious direct and indirect health concerns in Peru. The citizens and the city itself suffer greatly in these conditions. It is obvious, too, that street animals suffer greatly, even as they contribute to the worsening problems.

Cultural and social norms and economic conditions do not excuse a lack of action. Taken one issue at a time, it is conceivable that each of these health concerns can be improved or even solved, with or without strong political support. Of course, political support could help pave the way.

A growing number of citizens have begun to recognize this, as has Bruno Antoine, a Frenchman and Amazon Cares volunteer who has lived in Iquitos for more than a year. Antoine states, "Municipalities have never been motivated to try humane or even effective solutions ... Instead, they organized mass slaughter of these animals right in the streets, with little regard for the considerable impact on physical and emotional health."

Since 2004, the charity organization, Amazon CARES, has been battling the problem through vaccination and sterilization campaigns in areas of limited resources. Recently, 200 animals were sterilized in Requena, but this is only a drop in the bucket. The problem encompasses the large city of Iquitos as well as the river zones.

For the sake of the health of animals as well as humans, Antonie believes that the solution lies in treating the heart of the problem, through vaccination and sterilization. Success in this endeavor requires public awareness as well as the city’s compliance with its own law, N27596, which regulates the legal jurisdiction of dogs, forcing the city to pick up strays and place them in shelters or in pounds.

Amazon CARES constantly seeks partnership with authorities, bringing its experience, team of veterinarians, economist and expertly-designed plans to the table. "Since February, each community has been invited to join in discussing a solution based on partnership, but only the cities of Belen and Maynas appear interested, and even they have yet to sign any agreements," Antoine added.

Trusting the sound judgment of those in charge of framing the legal and political structure needed to make deep and lasting changes, Amazon Cares continues to strive for the well-being of both the animal and human populations, without forgetting its role in educating citizens, local, state and federal officials.

Through speaking at schools in the city, Amazon CARES is planting the seed for a more conscientious future that includes conservation, respect for life, and other challenges in the environment. Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Through today’s efforts, we will one day find that we, too, have become a great nation.

July 19, 2009

True Meaning of No-Kill Part III

This could have been added to the prior blog post, but I wanted these special dogs to grab your full attention. These are some of the residents of our lifetime resident program at the Amazon CARES no-kill sanctuary.

July 17, 2009

The TRUE meaning of NO-KILL Part II

The TRUE meaning of NO-KILL

Let me quote a 2005 PETA newsletter article, to demonstrate how many "no-kill shelters operate:

"One day last June, a Pennsylvania man tried to turn his dog over to a “no-kill”
shelter—one that chooses not to euthanize animals. He was told to come back two
weeks later when the shelter might have room. The man grabbed his dog, got in
his pick-up truck, and left. At the first intersection, he threw the dog out of
the truck and ran over him, crushing the dog beneath the tires. Shelter workers,
who wouldn’t help the dog before he died, collected his remains.

‘No-Kill’ or ‘No-Clue’? “No-kill” animal shelters should really be called
“leave-the-killing-to-someone-else” shelters."

Ironically, PETA does support euthanasia.

It is an extremely difficult issue, with solid arguments on both sides. While working to alleviate animal suffering following September 2007’s devestating 8.2 Richter Earthquake and resulting Tsunami, I had to face this issue head on. Many animals suffered back injuries or multiple broken bones. Many animals were sick prior to the Earthquake, and we had nowhere to place them. During that time, for the first time, I was faced with the euthanasia of multiple animals.
These animals, free from their pain and suffering, did not free my conscience. I still remember the dedicated local volunteers that carefully carried the animal remains to a back garden of one clinic space. We were assured the government would dig a large hole, at least 10 feet deep, to dispose of these animals in the most environmentally safe manner available.

Near the end of the day somebody opened a curtain facing the outside garden area. I was faced with wheelbarrows full of euthanized animals, and my heart broke. Yet in this situation, there were no options.

Years ago I had the opportunity to purchase 2.2 acres of prime property of the Itaya river. The Itaya is a ributary of the Amazon and the water is much cleaner there. We are fortunate to have plenty of space for animals. Our only restriction is having funds to support these animals.

Many no-kill shelters say they won't euthanize any "adoptable" dog. Often, dogs need medical treatment. Sometimes even minor treatment. Yet shelters won't or can't expend the resources, and these animals are euthanized.

There are many breed restrictions. These animals are euthanized.

If a pet is older, he is likely to be euthanized.

If the pet exhibits behavorial problems (often developed during their stay at a shelter), the pet will be euthanized.

Amazon Community Animal Rescue and Safty is very committed to our "No-Kill" policy. Best Friends Rapid Response Manager, Rich Crook, visited CARES and actually gave our program a name. He called it a "Lifetime Resident Program." Most of our animals have suffered abuse, trauma, life on the street and a daily struggle to survive. It is always amazing to see the trust and love these animals want to give after being rescued.

Sadly, some animals can't regain this trust. They prefer the company of other animals to people, and they happily run free on our 2.2 acre animal sanctuary, where the kennels are rarely locked.
Some animals have recurring conditions for which they will always need monitoring. These animals become lifetime residents. One such animal was set on fire. Eventually, wiry white hair grew back, but scars are still apparent, and she requires special skin treatments every two weeks.

Transmissable venereal tumors (TVT's) are very common in Iquitos. These tumors are treated with cancer drugs which are very expensive. We never hesitate to treat these cases, even when the chance of survival are slim, and despite the cost of these medicines. These animals are not euthanized unless their quality of life is low and they are suffering.

These animals become part of our family. As long as they live comfortably and have a good quality of life, they will never experience euthanasia.

I do want to make it clear that at times euthanasia is required. This occurs when a pet suffers from Distemper or another highly contagious disease. I am no longer allowed to be in the room when euthanasia must be performed. I cry and I try to comfort the animal, and end up making the veterinary staff nervous and sad. Yet I never forget a single animal.

To me - THIS is the TRUE definition of No-Kill. - Molly Mednikow

July 15, 2009

Princess Chose Us: True Meaning of "No-Kill"

Princess captured the hearts of the Amazon CARES and Vet Ventures Team with her kind look. From the beginning of the year (2009), day and night she remained close by, closely watching us as we worked the Sterilization Campaign for the benefit of the city of Requena. It was she who chose us as her master.

The health status of Princess was very poor. We have tried our best to treat her skin problems, other issues, and even had a balanced diet flown from Iquitos for her (no nutritionally balanced dog food is available for public sale in Requena).

Slowly, Princess was getting better, and treatments seemed to be working, but then Princess started to have convulsions. We all got very worried, and considered poisoning, reaction to medicine, renal problem, and diabetes, as possible problems. Concerns and frustration grew; impatient for a solution to health problems we asked a distant laboratory for a diagnosis. Just as she began to improve again, we received the diagnosis: she is a Collie-mix, and Collies can react to treatment of scabies with convulsions, similar to poisoning.

As the days passed, Princess became a member of the Amazon CARES and Vet Ventures Teams, w
hile our deadline to leave Requena grew close. The thought of leaving Princess behind to wander alone and defenseless in the streets tormented us all. She had captured our hearts, so we brought her with us. In Iquitos, healthy and happy, she will have a better chance to have a family.

Princess had
another surprise for us, though. Her convulsions were back.

Alarmed by this situation, we performed various examinations and finally discovered that Princess has Epilepsy. In dogs, epilepsy is very similar to that in humans, and can be defined as, "an unloading of electrochemistry in the brain, appearing at any time and becoming repetitive with time.” This means that Princess needs medicines like Fenobarbital and Silimarina for the rest of her life in order to control the seizures. Since receiving these medications, there has been no more convulsions and Princess now waits be adopted.

Amazon CARES has decided to administer these medications to Princess for anyone who adopts her, for as long as is necessary, since these medications are strictly regulated under the Peruvian law.

How does this story relate to the "True Meaning of No-Kill?" See Part II of this article.

Contributors: Dr. Esther Peña, Ana Garca, Devin Greaney, Brandi Pool and Molly Mednikow

July 14, 2009

Amazon CARES campaign in Bella Vista-Iquitos

Amazon CARES, was recently approached by the Punchana Municipality for help with stray animals gathering in street market areas, especially near and around food vendors.

Of course, Amazon CARES agreed to help and the Health and Clean Atmosphere in Bella Vista-Nanay campaign was launched. CARES veterinarians and staff focused on deworming strays and pets, as well as educating the public and pet owners on the significant impact that animal health has on all public health.

Educational issues included the need to keep pets and strays free of intestinal and external parasites such as ticks, fleas, and scabies. For example, parasites can carry diseases, some of which can be passed from animals to humans. These diseases are called “zoonoses[1],” and are not limited to infecting the intestinal system. Some target other human organs, such as the eye, and have no cure. The importance of such education cannot be overstated, considering the cycle of infection posed by pets as well as strays gathering, sleeping, eating, and relieving themselves in the market; of special concern are the areas that draw them the most, the food vendors.

The Punchana Municipality provided tables to work from and public address sound equipment for use in teaching. Everyone in the city was invited to bring their pets to the veterinarians, while volunteers caught strays for treatment. The final count of dewormed animals was 183. This included 95 male dogs, 63 female dogs, 9 male cats, and 16 female cats.

The governor of Punchana, Joiner Vasquez Pinedo, appeared in person to thank the Amazon CARES team of vets and volunteers for the making such an impact toward a cleaner, healthier environment for everyone.

Amazon CARES would like to give special thanks to volunteers Paola Urquiaga and Sandra Nunez who stayed until 2:00 a.m. helping vets and staff to sterilize instruments and other equipment; to Max Chavez, Victor Ubillos, Rosa Merly and Wilson of the Punchana Municipality, Ing., for all their efforts; and to all the volunteers in this campaign for demonstrating solidarity and civic responsibility.

[1] Zoonosis: any infectious disease that can be transmitted (in some instances, by a vector) from other animals, both wild and domestic, to humans or from humans to animals. Zoonoses is plural.

July 13, 2009

FLASHBACK: Female Vet Team Competes in Amazon Raft Race

Originally posted on September 26, 2006
The Amazon CARES ALL FEMALE team came in SECOND PLACE of all international teams that finished the race! This is an incredible feat and I am so proud. All agreed it was the hardest challenge of their lives and declined to participate again next year, but we'll see ....

These strong gals rowed 8-10 hours for two days straight, and on the final day rowed 4 hours. Much of the rowing was AGAINST A STRONG RIVER CURRENT. They also battled sweltering heat, insects, the threat of snakes, piranhas, spiders and they were wet the whole time. AT night they slept on a boat (in hammocks) that resembled a refugee ship. Congratulations team!

The participation of Veterinarians (left to right) Jane Little, Beth McGennisken, Sheradan Harvey, and Aoife O'Sullivan raised much awareness about Amazon CARES. Thank you girls!

Below is an article from the New Jersey Express Times. Of the six international teams three dropped out during the race. The one mentioned in the article below had to be rescued by the Coast Guard after their raft sank during a tropical storm.

Piranhas, spiders await race teams in Peru
Wilson woman will participate this weekend in race along Amazon. Trophy, $3,000 will await winners.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Express-Times

WILSON BOROUGH: A borough woman plans to spend this weekend racing Peruvian-made wooden rafts down the Amazon. "It's an adventure of a lifetime," Natasha Serrano said. "It takes a lot of endurance to be in the Amazon, but the things you see are amazing."

The seventh annual Great River Amazon Raft Race is billed as the world's longest raft race. Seventy four-person teams race the 133-mile distance between Nauta and Bella Vista Nanay in the Iquitos region of Peru.
"It's a fairly calm river," Serrano said. "It's so big it looks like a lake." The race is held in three stages with the contestants racing their balsa-wood rafts for $3,000 in prize money and the Schneider Trophy. That's while the racers are avoiding piranhas, anaconda and mosquito-borne diseases, such as yellow fever. Indigenous tribes also have been known to shoot darts at strangers. "I like pushing myself by doing things I am normally afraid of," Serrano, 35, said, pointing out that she has a fear of heights. "I don't even want to get on the plane to go down there."

Serrano visited the Amazon last year as part of an international business class. While there, she was bitten by a spider. The wound turned into a staph infection. "It was a pretty close call because you don't want to go to a hospital in Peru," Serrano said. And then there were also the largest cockroaches she had ever seen and the sighting of a 140-pound rodent. "I thought I would never go back there again," Serrano said. Despite the spider mishap and teenager-sized rats, Peru left an impression on Serrano, and she kept in touch with happenings down there. She found the race information on a Web site and convinced her brother to join her in South America.

It will cost Serrano $900 to get to Peru and $200 for the race entry fee. Part of the fee goes toward the construction of the wood and rope raft built by Peruvians. It also buys Serrano and her brother three days on a river boat sleeping in a hammock between races. Serrano said she is not there for the competition. "The goal of my teammates is to experience this," Serrano said.

The finish line in Iquitos is a town where the residents live out on the water and use boats for transportation. Serrano described it as Venice without the romance. "I like to see things I would not normally see," Serrano said.

Serrano, a pharmaceutical company analyst, will bring along medical and school supplies for the Peruvians. Her teammates on the Los Picadores team are an American brother and sister living in Peru. Los Picadores translates into "the spicy ones" or "those who cut into pieces," depending on whom you ask for a translation.

July 5, 2009

As He Lay Dying . . .Esteban is regaining his health! (Chapter 2)

Esteban has been doing very well since his rescue. The transformation in neglected rescue dogs is always an amazing site to see. This heartwarming transformation never ceases to bring great joy, despite the miles. Whereas the Peru staff is used to the experience of seeing progress every day of a rescue dog’s recovery, I can witness and be inspired by the story in photographs.

Anyone that has ever rescued a very ill or abused animal knows the capacity of these animals to forgive. Humans could learn some important lessons from animals!

In a prior blog entry we discussed Esteban. That was five weeks ago. His condition was very dire, and thank you to those that rose to the occasion and helped Esteban survive. Of course, we never know the EXACT reason that prompts a donor to support the meaningful work of Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety.
However, we do want to thank the following supporters that made it clear their donations were specifically for Esteban: Michael T. Tiedemann, Jean Lowery, Ellen Waggoner, Manuela

The following photos can demonstrate his progress more than anything else.

Esteban at three weeks recovery.
Notice that tail wagging!

5 weeks:
With Dr. Esther Peña,
Dir. Amazon CARES Perú

More on Esteban
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

July 1, 2009

Why is this dog smiling? - Amazon CARES is a Top 10 Cause on Twitter!!

Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety (Amazon CARES) is in good company, as one of the Top Ten Causes on Twitter! 53 worthy causes were nominated, and on July 1, 2009, the Top 10 Causes on Twitter were announced. Winners were chosen by a public vote over a two week period. Amazon CARES is ranked #4.
Amazon CARES wonderful activists made a tremendous difference in the outcome of this vote. Personal thanks to Manuela, Brandi Pool, and Robert Mednikow, and many more. While I was attached to other projects, many supporters worked hard to earn Amazon CARES deserved votes.
Here is a complete list of the Top 10 Causes on Twitter!

1. Alex's Lemonade http://www.alexslemonade.org/
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation evolved from a young cancer patient's front yard lemonade stand to a nationwide fundraising movement to find a cure for childhood cancer. Since Alexandra "Alex" Scott (1996-2004) set up her front-yard stand at the age of four, more than $25 million has been raised towards fulfilling her dream of finding a cure for all children with cancer.
2. Hydrocephalus Association http://www.hydroassoc.org/
Our mission is to provide support, education, and advocacy to people whose lives have been touched by hydrocephalus and to the professionals who help them.
3. Abundant Water http://abundantwater.org/
Abundant Water is a charitable group working to bring clean drinking water to those who need it in developing nations. We give 100% of the money raised to direct project costs, funding sustainable clean water solutions in areas of greatest need.
Since being founded in 2004, our scope has expanded to address important topics. These include animal welfare, but also, human health, domestic violence prevention, humane education, conservation, environmental issues and assisted animal therapy.
5. Smile Train http://www.smiletrain.org/
Smile Train is the world's largest and most effective cleft charity - we help more children than all similar charities combined. The cleft surgery your donation provides is a true, modern-day medical miracle: it costs as little as $250 to give a desperate child not just a new smile, but a new life.
6. War Child Holland http://www.warchildholland.org/
War Child's goal is to empower children and young people in war-affected areas through community-based programs, which strengthen their psychological and social development and well-being
7. Caring Bridge http://www.caringbridge.org/
CaringBridge® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit web service that connects family and friends during a critical illness, treatment or recovery. A CaringBridge website is personal, private and available 24/7. It helps ease the burden of keeping family and friends informed. Patients and caregivers draw strength from loved ones' messages of support.
8. Spirit Jump http://spiritjump.blogspot.com/
Spirit Jumps goal is to provide hope and comfort to the many men, women and children battling cancer one gift at a time. To let each and every cancer fighter know that they are not alone in their battle and that there are many of us who are rooting them on. When someone is looking for a reason to keep fighting we hope a little package of love arrives to give them the extra strength they need to get through the day.
9. Jessica's Trust http://www.jessicastrust.org.uk/
Our primary aim is to raise awareness of childbed fever: we would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever (also called puerperal fever or puerperal sepsis) is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
In the same way that every parent knows the danger of Meningitis, we believe that parents should be told about sepsis and childbed fever in ante natal classes and at the point of post natal discharge.
10. Blueribbons4me http://www.blueribboncampaignforme.org/
The Blue Ribbon Campaign was started in April 2009 by an M.E./CFS patient in Canada. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of a devastating disease known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).