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August 29, 2009

Brando: It was a homicide!

By Molly Mednikow (opinion/editorial)

Current news about dogs being utilized in Peruvian medical school brought back sad memories of a wonderful rescue dog named Brando. Brando lived for praise. Once we taught him to “sit,”
he would run circles around me, always performing the sit command when we were face to face. He had so much pride in doing something that he thought would thrill me, and though it was slightly funny to watch his antics, I was thrilled. We shared a special connection.

In memory of Brando

Though it is hard to part with these special dogs, it is also very special knowing they will go to loving homes and have their very own “forever family.” One day we believed that day had come for Brando.

Our adoption contract and adoption procedures follow the guidelines of the Humane Society of the United States and other major animal welfare organizations. We have utilized ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match” program, and instead of bringing prospective adopters out the shelter (which is fairly remote), we meet the person and hopefully other family members to find out what dog would suit them best.

The girl that adopted Brando passed all of our requirements and paid 30 Nuevo Soles for the adoption fee. This is equivalent to about $10 US, but in Peru it is $30, which is not easy for many people to afford. Yet, we believe this fee to be nominal due to the medical care and spay/neuter surgery, and we also believe that if people cannot pay this fee, they will not likely have resources to care for the
pet adequately.

This seemingly responsible and caring University student promised to provide for Brando.

Within hours, we received an anonymous phone call
telling us that Brando was at the University and in bad circumstances. We tried contacting the adopter to no avail, and finally called our lawyer and the police. The situation turned ugly. She claimed she had taken Brando to stay with her grandmother in a far off jungle village. Another anonymous tip informed us that Brando had passed. The perpetrator hired a lawyer, and they found a loophole in our adoption contract. They arrived at our clinic one day with a black street dog that looked nothing like Brando. They left it with us, claiming it was the dog Brando!

Our rescue dogs, as anybody in this field will say, are always remembered in our hearts. We follow up on adoptions, but many people move around in Iquitos, and it is easy to lose track of some animals. My heart broke as I remember teaching Brando to sit using the clicker method. I remember his ASPCA "Meet Your Match" profile as "Constant Companion." We had put more than just time and money into Brando. We gave love and our heart as well.

Since the beginning of Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety in 2004, we have worked to educate the community about animal abuse, the link to domestic abuse, and the respect that animals deserve. We have seen a tremendous change over the years.

Early in our history, we shed light on a traveling Circus that paid between 10 and 15 Nuevo Soles ($3 - $5 US) for healthier dogs and cats that would placed, alive, in the tiger cages, providing the tiger’s fresh food and entertainment. We spoke up and encouraged civilian action to protect these innocent dogs and cats this horrific and frightening fate. We lobbied successfully to force government action to prevent this atrocity. The Circus never returned to Iquitos.

When we began, we faced harsh animal cruelty cases: A dog set ablaze, a dog that suffered attempted murder when somebody tried to decapitate him, a dog with a large machete wound.

Left: Arruguita, now, as a lifetime resident of the CARES sanctuary.

Right: Amazing survival after being
doused in kerosene and set on fire.

Left: A Machete Wound, 4 days after aggressive treatment to heal the wound.

Right: an unsuccessful attack to decapitate a dog

After reading the wonderful editorial piece written by Brandi Pool, I revisited the Brando incident in my mind. It is still a raw wound. I remember he was the only shelter dog that learned how to catch a Frisbee. Getting the Frisbee back was a different situation!

It turns out the medical school in Iquitos has also utilized live dogs for medical practice. The neighbors denounce the school often, for the school does not dispose of the carcasses properly, leaving them by the side of the road to decompose, or in some cases, not even completely dead.
I am proud that the Iquitos government, in a unique act that benefits animals, passed a law saying it was illegal for the medical school or students to continue this practice.

Is this common in other nations too? When will people, all people of this world, recognize our responsibility to care for animals that WE domesticated? Is this their final reward. Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety continues to fight ignorance and cruelty. Working with children and teenagers seems to be very effective. Yet it also seems we have a long way to go.

In loving memory of Brando.

August 23, 2009

Stolen Dogs in Danger by Prestigious University

It's true. There is no supply without a demand. But is the oldest university of the Americas creating a demand for dogs for students to dissect and ignoring how that demand is being supplied? To the point of turning a blind eye to pet snatching?

The Major National University of San Marcos (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, UNMSM) in Lima, Peru was established in 1551, making it the oldest university in South or North America. UNMSM, despite its prestige, is unable to obtain enough human cadavers for use as teaching aids in surgical classes. To fill the void, street dogs are the university’s official solution. However, alternatives to live animal experimentation are certainly available:

...Many non-harmful alternatives now exist, including computer simulations, high quality videos, ‘ethically-sourced cadavers’ from animals that have been euthanased for medical reasons, or have died naturally or in accidents, preserved specimens, models and surgical simulators, non-invasive self-experimentation and supervised clinical experiences (Rowan 1991, Bauer 1993, Knight 1999, Gruber & Dewhurst 2004, Martinsen & Jukes 2006)[1]

It is difficult to imagine that proper teaching aids are unobtainable to a prestigious facility of higher learning in one of the world’s major cities, where certainly tuition and departmental budgets must exist. It is difficult to imagine that the situation could be so dire that live street animals are the only option.

However, not all their experimental surgeries are being performed on strays. Recently, a Lima woman had her dog, Tomas, stolen from her as she walked down the street. A worker at the nearby teaching hospital who happened to know the woman, recognized Tomas and gave his owner a call. Tomas was sedated and prepped for dissection when his owner arrived and rescued him.

-Street dogs are easily recognizable-
Amazon CARES rescue dog, Princessa after spaying

Ricardo Rubios, dean of the medical school, acknowledged that stolen dogs had wound up in the surgery room, but said the school only uses strays for classes. "I assure you we would have returned the dog. All our experimental surgeries are done to dogs that don't have owners," Rubios told Reuters.[2]

It’s appalling that they are the oldest university in South America and North America and not only do they not obtain enough human cadavers for proper training of their students or use mannequins when possible, but they have no problem taking street dogs for this purpose and if that wasn’t bad enough, they don’t even ask questions or care about dissecting obviously healthy dogs.

But, let’s not forget that in Peru, a healthy dog has an owner who loves and cares for it. End of story. In contrast, a street dog will appear malnourished, may have little or no hair and is likely to have scars, sores, or other obvious signs of neglect. There can be no mistaking a healthy, clean dog of normal weight and a shiny coat with a street dog. The difference is striking.

Street animals live in deplorable conditions and they wear the evidence of this on their bodies and in their dispositions. They are dirty, often contagious to humans and they are hungry. They are desperate and downtrodden. They hang around any place that might result in food. It is no surprise that they are not welcomed by the people around them, who are likely very poor and unable to care for even one of them. Until recently, caring for a stray would not have even crossed their minds. Because they are seen as a health risk, they are abused in horrible ways. Rather than find a solution, the abuse becomes sport and the animals are seen as little more than street rats to be disposed of in ever more creative and entertaining ways. Communities have gone so far as to sponsor mass poisonings of these animals – leaving them in the streets dead, dying, or suffering from near death, never to recover.

This cultural point of view MIGHT explain how a dean of medicine MIGHT come to view street animals used in surgery as serving a higher purpose - redeeming themselves - to humans through medicine or even feel that the practice serves the community in taking one more stray off the street. It’s not hard to imagine that a pet “rat” wouldn’t rank much higher than just a regular old rat.

Hard Questions, That I can’t answer:

  • How many pets/strays have been murdered?
  • Does the University seek healthy dogs for experimental surgeries in which an unhealthy dog won’t suffice?
  • Is there a black market for dogs and a back door that a shady fellow delivers them to? Do they have a secret knock?
  • What is the going rate – the monetary motivation – for a person in need to collect dogs for surgeries the way the less fortunate collect cans?

Amazon CARES teaches human education in Iquitios, Peru so that these cultural views will change. Perhaps if the university’s administrators were to attend some of the CARES Humane Education classes, change could come sooner rather than later. Perhaps then, they might return to their offices and conduct a simple online search that would lead them to the easily found United States Library of Medicine's Bibliography on Alternatives to Animal Testing.


[1] Knight A. Humane Teaching Methods in Veterinary Education. Andrew Knight BSc., BVMS, CertAW, MRCVS, FOCAE 8/23/09 5:00 PM

[2] Reuters, Stolen dogs found in Peru medical school lab, Madelyn Fairbanks 8/23/09 5:30 PM


2009 Veterinary Trip Re-Caps: Veterinary Ventures in Requeña.

Success in Requeña! 193 animals / 19 days: Vet Ventures & CARES at work.

This long-overdue article details the ambitious Veterinary collaboration between CARES and US based Veterinary Ventures.

On January 29, 2009, the volunteers of Veterinary Ventures returned to the US from an exhausting but rewarding 19-day trip to Requeña, Perú. In this remote location of the northern Amazon River basin, Vet Ventures volunteers joined Dr. Esther Peña & staff members of Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety (Amazon CARES), based in Iquitos, Perú. All volunteers worked tirelessly to help the community control their struggle with canine overpopulation and the number of stray and unhealthy animals living on the streets.

During 19 days, the team spayed 91 dogs, neutered 87 dogs, 9 cat spays and 6 cat neuters. That is a total of 193 stray dogs and cats that will not be contributing to the stray population. These services were provided to street animals and owned animals of impoverished families – all free of charge.

A long-term method to resolve the animal overpopulation dilemma is an “Animal Birth Control” campaign. CARES and partner charities conduct free spay / neuter clinics for stray and owned animals. Throughout the year, Veterinary volunteers from all over the world join Amazon CARES on trips to remote communities along the Amazon.

Lacking humane options, the most common solution to animal overpopulation is mass poisoning of these innocent animals.

In 2006, the plight of the human and animals in Requeña reached a boiling point. The homeless animals were suffering as they struggled for food and daily survival. Many were victims of violence, injury, ridden with fleas and ill with a variety of diseases and parasites – some of which are communicable to humans. The residents were becoming sick and some afraid to leave their homes due to the number of feral cats and dogs running at large.

The Requeña authorities reacted quickly and in the most cost-effective way, they had - through the mass poisoning of almost 600 dogs.

This method of eliminating street dogs is inhumane and causes a long, painful death for animals. Some animals survive the poisoning, but never recover fully from this act of cruelty. The poison causes a great amount of environmental damage as well. The communities of the Amazon rarely have running water. Poison contaminates the land and water, the same water used for waste, fishing, laundry and bathing. Picture below left: Arriving in Requeña

This trip is a landmark for Amazon CARES. Under the scrutiny of the press, the Mayor of Requena, re-elected from the prior administration, solicited Amazon CARES to bring about a more humane solution to the stray population.

The distance and financial concerns made the trip impossible for the Peruvian charity. Dr. Jennifer Brown of Vet Ventures resolved this dilemma when she contacted the Amazon CARES USA Director, Molly Mednikow. When Dr. Brown learned of the situation, the volunteers of Vet Ventures mobilized quickly to provide their expertise and labor.

Requeña is located 250 km (155 miles) upriver from Iquitos. Government officials paid for the transport of volunteers on a cargo barge. The trip took over 18 hours to arrive in Requeña. Without a doubt, this is the most remote community that CARES has traveled to in order to provide their services!

The Government of Requena also provided the volunteers the use of the Tarapaca School for veterinary facilities. The prep and recovery area took up one classroom, and the surgery center occupied the second. the Government provided 24-hour security of the School premises, and 5 employees to assist in gathering the homeless animals for surgery and medical treatment.

Vet Ventures has already suggested a return trip, as they are committed to a multi-year program in order to achieve lasting results. CARES is especially grateful to Vet Ventures for the significant donations of equipment needed by CARES, including a gas anesthesia machine, a rare piece of equipment for any medical or veterinary clinic in the region. Dr. Peña estimates the value of these generous donations to be at least $5000.

Veterinary Ventures, founded in 2005, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humane veterinary care to the under-served animals of the world. Dr. Joi Sutton is the Founder and President of Veterinary Ventures. Veterinary Ventures promotes, by providing direct veterinary services, the humane treatment and care of animals in needy regions of the world. Veterinary Ventures seeks areas of the world lacking adequate veterinary care. The goal is to collaborate with local animal groups to set up month-long spay/neuter campaigns in attempt to humanely control stray animal populations. Once a spay/neuter campaign has been established, Veterinary Ventures encourages local humane societies and animal care groups to institute long-term veterinary care. Their website is located at
Thank you sincerely to Veterinary Ventures and Founder Dr. Joi Sutton. They remain in touch with CARES vet Dr. Esther Peña and continue to send valuable donations of medical supplies.

August 19, 2009

Good News for Esteban (Chapter 3)

Poor Esteban came to Amazon CARES with multiple health issues.
Though he was near death that day, he ate eagerly while vets awaited his lab results. He wasn't giving up. And neither did supporters of Amazon CARES. Thank you so much for your donations. They have done so much to help poor Esteban. Your sponsorship has gone a long way toward helping him get the care and medications he required.

Esteban in for a checkup with new owner, Cesar Bardales

His treatment is ongoing, but as previously reported, he is regaining his health. He gives and receives affection freely, and is a very well-mannered pet who loves children. But, here's the BIG NEWS: Esteban has been adopted!

Esteban recently came in to the clinic for a check-up, a bath, and to be neutered. During surgery, his tumors were removed. His chemotherapy will continue for a short while longer. Here, you see Esteban with his delighted new owner, his Lupine collar and leash, and his own bag of Pedigree. Lupine and Pedigree are both supporters of Amazon CARES.

More pics of Esteban...

Esteban undergoes surgery --- Check up and a bath --- Esteban lookin' good!

Bonnie: A Cocker Spaniel's Will to Survive

Bonnie is one of the first rescue dogs of Amazon CARES. She is a Cocker Spaniel, a favorite breed in the remote Amazon city of Iquitos. Though there are favorite breeds, pet owners are unaware of responsible pet care. It is common to wean puppies at 2-3 weeks and to forgo veterinary care, thus these pets do not have vaccines or other necessary medical attention. Many people coming to the Amazon CARES shelter see Bonnie and want to adopt her. However, Bonnie will not be adopted by anyone.

Why is this? Sadly, Bonnie was abused in her hip area, probably in the form of kicking, before being abandoned. because of this cruelty, Bonnie does not trust easily. The CARES staff knows Bonnie well -- when showing her affection, we never touch her from her mid-back down -- and is able to see the warning signs she gives prior to the occasional snap or bite. If she was to be adopted and someone was bitten, it could provoke more abuse and we would feel terrible for all involved. Households in Peru are very open for the purpose of ventilation and that could result in a child being bitten. To prevent this possibility, the decision was made to include Bonnie in our "Lifetime Pet Program," and she is a much-loved member of the CARES family.

Bonnie does not have a kennel. She lives free outside of the spacious fenced area. She can usually be found at the hut of the security guard and his wife, Marlena, who is our cook and housekeeper when we have volunteers. One thing about Cocker Spaniels is that they tend to be very loyal to ONE person, in our household, that person is Marlena. Sometimes Bonnie and Marlena disappear for a bit and Bonnie returns decked out with ribbons and bows! When others call Bonnie´s name she turns on her heel and runs the other way!

When Bonnie isn’t playing dress-up, she enjoys demonstrating that she is unusually gifted in rat-catching. Rats can be a problem in the thatched-roofed huts of the jungle. At least once a week, she catches a few and tortures them to death by banging them against the ground. She then sits proudly over her "trophies" awaiting praise for her work...Unfortunately, her desire to hunt has not always been limited to rats, and we have had to reimburse a few neighbors for chickens, a duck and a rooster!

Bonnie has even posed for Amazon CARES as a Christmas Card Model!

Tragedy Strikes! Unjustified Animal Cruelty.

During the flood (blogged here and here), she ventured to an adjacent property, probably to hunt, where she was not welcome. She suffered horrible damage from a man and his chainsaw. She traveled back to the shelter, wounded terribly, through chest-deep flood water. She needs sponsors to pay for her extensive treatment and rehabilitation. CARES is fortunate to have skilled surgeons who were able to sew her up.

So, how is Bonnie now?

She is healing PHYSICALLY, and has already returned to our sanctuary. Bonnie has come a long, long way. Yet her surgery and medical bills have not been sponsored, so we continue to seek help from generous supporters.

August 18, 2009

Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

This article features our rescue dog, Fresia, whose story is told in our blog, Fairy Tales do Come True.

Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs

by Oliva Martin, Pet Care Consultant

Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease in dogs that is caused by the Scarcoptes scabei mite. It is also referred to as Canine Scabies. Mites are tiny organisms that resemble spiders, they are so small they cannot be seen by the naked eye. The mites invade the skin of healthy dogs and puppies, creating skin problems, most commonly, hair loss and severe itching. These mange mites infect not only dogs, but can also be spread to humans through contact.

Sarcoptic mange affects all dogs, regardless of their age or breed. While the mites prefer to live on our canine companions, they can also live on humans, cats and foxes. The adult

Dog with Mange courtsey AmazonCARES on FlickrDog with Mange courtsey AmazonCARES on Flickr
mites can live for 3-4 weeks on the host’s skin. After mating, the female mite burrows into the skin and deposits 3-4 eggs. These eggs hatch after 3-10 days, producing larvae. The larvae then move about the skin and mature into adults, which return to the skin surface and mate, and thus the cycle continues.

Because the mites are deep within the skin, their movement causes the skin to be very itchy. This also creates an allergic response, which makes the itchiness even worse. The mites prefer areas on your dog where there is no hair, so typically the areas affected first include the ears, elbows and abdomen. If left untreated, they spread to other areas, causing hair loss. Your dog will scratch incessantly to try and relieve the itching, however, this can lead to more complications. The areas where the mites have burrowed under the skin can become red and develop pustules (pustules look like pimples), which develop a yellow-colored crust. These areas can very easily become infected if your dog continues to scratch.

Scarcoptic mange can be very difficult to diagnose as the typical test of using skin scrapings is unreliable. This is because as the dog scratches, the tunnels the mites have dug under the skin are broken open and the mites die. Which leads many test results that come back falsely negative. Some veterinarians will perform a “maybe mange” test, in which they treat the dog for mange and wait to see if its condition improves.

Although difficult to diagnose, Scarcoptic mange is easily treatable. There are a few different treatments for Scarcoptic mange that are highly effective, these include dips, wormers and spot-on treatments. Many veterinarians recommend dips such as Mitaban and Lym Dyp, which given weekly can resolve the mange problem in about a month. These dips are often used in combination with Ivermectin. Ivermectin is one of the most effective treatments against Scarcoptic mange. Typically an Ivermectin injection is given either weekly or every two weeks in 1-4 doses. However, this treatment is not to be used on Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and Australian Shepherds as they can be affected by a mutation that makes the Ivermectin toxic. Finally, a spot-on treatment, or Revolution, can be prescribed. Revolution is an Ivermectin derivative that is used for the control of fleas, roundworms, hookworms, ticks, ear mites and Sarcoptic mange mites. This spot on is used as a monthly treatment to prevent infestations.

Sarcoptic mange is typically spread through contact with an infected animal. While they live happily on their host, they are only able to live about 36 hours without one, so environmental treatments generally are not necessary. It is a good idea, however, to wash your pets bedding, collars, harnesses or toys in hot water to avoid any further infestations or the risk of your other pets being infected.
**This article is not meant to provide a diagnosis for your pet. If your pet is sick or showing unusual symptoms, please contact your local veterinarian for a diagnosis**


This article features our rescue dog, Fresia, whose story is told in our blog, Fairy Tales do Come True, and has been used here with permission from Pet Supplies 4 Less

August 2, 2009

D.C. student donates tzedakah to Amazon CARES!

n620721356_2114181_9952.jpg$10 adds up. Especially when a young man donates $10 every few months, from his "tsedakah box"

I have posted this message in several places, where many people do not know about the Jewish concept of tzedakah. I had to inform people about this incredibly generous student who has donated his tzedakah money to Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education & Safety. Thank you Jesse Berman for your contribution!

EVERYBODY TAKE NOTE! Jesse is a student at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy. He collects "tzedakah" which he generously donates to CARES. "The word charity is shallow when it comes to describing the Jewish idea of "tzedakah". Tzedakah does not mean charity; it means righteousness.

Whereas the word charity indicates giving alms to the poor the concept of tzedakah requires it. Tzedakah is not just a good act that is the result of a good heart, but an obligation." From "The Eight Levels of Charity" by Avi Lazerson at

Jesse, you have such wonderful values for a person your age. I miss seeing you on a regular basis. Your father, David Berman, deserves much credit, but ultimately, your heart is filled with generosity, and you are a credit to the Jewish community.

A little spare change goes a long way. Donor Rebecca Portman and her husband also keep a tsedakah box. When it is full they estimate in contains $50 in change. They decide on different charities to donate to, and Amazon CARES has also been a beneficiary of their special form of Jewish generosity.

August 1, 2009

The Accidental Charity

Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety came into being by chance. A North American business woman traveled to Peru's stunning Amazon region over many years as a volunteer for another organization. She remained dismayed at the countless, severely ill, stray dogs in Iquitos, Peru. Every year she would rescue at least one dog, the first one being "Lucky," due to all the Peruvians saying he was one lucky dog that she came along!Copy of marone1onstreet.jpg

She made an arrangement with a local Veterinarian. They converted his backyard into a kennel area, and she sent money to support his rescuing 10 dogs per month. Of course this is a mere drop in the bucket, and the initial "Amazon Dog Rescue" did not continue for more than 6 months.

During 2004 she kept food on hand to feed street dogs that would approach her cautiously. One very ill, malnourished, mangy dog caught her attention frequently. One evening, when returning to her hotel, she saw this dog sleeping in front of the hotel entrance. However she was seeing double! Two sisters, identical in appearance and in poor health, "found" her, and hotel employees had not forced them to move as was the custom.

She snuck them into her hotel room and spent the entire night bathing dried mud and fleas from them. She watched over them as they finally relaxed, although nobody slept that evening. At 6 AM she snuck the two sisters out of the hotel and took them to see her former vet partner. Despite her desire, she did not choose to rescue more dogs, but the dogs didn't know that! They found her, one even walking up to her table at a Chinese restaurant (He got named "WonTon.")Copy of maroneinjured2.jpg

As she rescued more dogs and took them to local Veterinarians for treatment, she started running out of space. Everyone she knew was keeping dogs for her! When she visited one older dog that had been abandoned, she found him in a dark room behind the Veterinary Clinic in a cramped box, unable to move, and with no water or food.

She had no other choice . . . She never boarded the plane back to the US. She rented space and built out kennels and a exam room. Most people thought she'd lost her mind, and Peruvians especially were unaccustomed to humane treatment of animals. Animal abandonment was very common. Mass poisonings to control the stray population was the government animal control program.marron.jpg

Since 2004 Amazon CARES has operated stray dog health and population control programs, humane education programs, a no-kill shelter and a low cost vet clinic, and we host international volunteers year round at which time we serve outlying communities. It is amazing the difference in the community as a whole, in terms of overall health, well-being, educational levels, and a decrease in domestic abuse! Please support our mission that, over 4 years, has already made a significant impact on living conditions and health for animals AND humans in the poorest region of Peru, the Amazon region. All donations are tax deductible.

A final note: The two sisters survived and thrived. One was adopted into a wonderful family, and Marone, above, was adopted by Molly, and lives very happily at our spacious jungle shelter!