San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Visiting Vets Sterilize Hundreds of Animals

TWO veterinarians and two veterinary technicians from the U.S. state of North Carolina came to Costa Rica to spend time at the beach in Zancudo, on the southern Pacific coast, and a week in San José – but not to enjoy the ocean or the museums. Instead, in the two weeks they were here, they sterilized 350-400 dogs and cats; nobody kept an accurate count because of exhaustion. They also took care of a pig that had been kicked by a cow.


The vets and techs are part of the Humane Alliance of Western North Carolina, which works with the McKee Program of Costa Rica to control cat and dog populations and ensure better care for pets.


Veterinarians Whitney Eure and Michelle Amtower and techs Ellen McCain and Cynthia Waggoner arrived here Nov. 12, at the invitation of Karen Graumann, a North Carolinian who lives in Zancudo and who has been interested in setting up spay-neuter clinics in the Southern Zone. Gisela Vico, president of the National Association for the Protection of Animals (ANPA), and Christine Crawford, who brought McKee to Costa Rica in 1998, were also helpful in bringing the team to the country to work in marginal areas where pets and street animals are often neglected. The team members donated their time and surgical instruments, which are very expensive here.


THE first three clinics were held in La Carpio and Los Guidos, both heavily populated, low-income areas in greater San José.


ANPA has held several clinics in La Carpio, and has found residents receptive to spaying and neutering their pets.


The style of operation used by McKee is called a microlaparotomy. The vet makes a small slit in the animal’s pubic area and uses a hook to pull out the tubes for cutting and tying. The operation lasts about 15 minutes. An hour later, the pets have recovered and are ready to return home.


In Zancudo, clinics were set up in a private home in La Virgen, in the Soda Ashley, a small restaurant, and in Bar Zanculito. Owners were asked to “donate something” toward the cost if they could not pay the ¢3,000 ($6) fee, Graumann said.


“More than half the people paid less; some could only pay ¢500 ($1),” she said. “I even bargained with a boy who is going to cut my grass in exchange for spaying his dog.”


Graumann also organizes a sponsorship program with photos of dogs needing financial help for the operation.


AFTER a busy working vacation, the veterinary team was able

to relax as summer set in and the beach beckoned.


“It’s a wonderful country,” said Eure, who is impressed with the work done by McKee and other programs to benefit animals here. “So many people showed up for the operations. It was well organized.”


Joining the team for a few days were Norman Escrucería, a McKee vet from Panama, where the McKee program was established two years ago, and Blas Rivas of Alajuela, northwest of San José, one of the first vets to use the McKee method here.


Following a U.S. Thanksgiving Day of rest and dinner at the home of Christine Crawford, the four North Carolinians returned to their own busy schedules in Charlotte.


Anyone in the Southern Zone who would like to sponsor an operation or hold a clinic can contact Karen Graumann at

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