On average, most veterinarians will spay or neuter from two to three animals per day.
So imagine having to go through 156 cats and dogs over a three-day period. That is exactly what Dr. Lilan B. Hauser, the chief of staff at Falmouth Animal Hospital, and a Massachusetts team of two veterinarians and three veterinary technicians did in January during a trip to St. Thomas.
While the locale represents a secluded island getaway, for this group it was anything but a respite from their daily routines. “It was totally exhausting because we were on our feet doing surgery for almost 10 hours straight. One day we broke for lunch and another day we ate while waiting for the animals to fall asleep or wake up,” she said.
The impetus for the trip began last June when Dr. Hauser connected with Leslie Hurd of Martha’s Vineyard, the founder of Angels Helping Animals Worldwide, a nonprofit that helps place abandoned St. Thomas dogs in homes here in the region. Through Ms. Hurd, one of Dr. Hauser’s staff members, hospital manager Kelly Buckley, ended up adopting Liesl, a miniature German shepherd.
“When I was introduced to Leslie we said we would try to help her in any way possible,” Dr. Hauser said. That moment occurred this past November when Dr. Hauser found herself at a veterinary conference in St. John’s. On her way back to Cape Cod, Dr. Hauser made a stop on St. Thomas, where she went to its humane society and offered her assistance.
This feels really, really good to contribute in such a direct way.
Dr. Lilan Hauser
“I asked the shelter manager, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, could you take some dogs with you today back to the states?’ ” Dr. Hauser said. “So I did. We took three dogs because I had my mother and daughter in tow. We took each dog in the cabin with us.”
From there Dr. Hauser remained in contact with staff at the humane society, which invited Dr. Hauser to come back to St. Thomas in January for a spay and neuter event.
Dr. Hauser accepted the offer, bringing with her the first veterinarian she had ever worked for—Mohamed M. Emara, the previous owner of Cushing Square Veterinary Clinic in Belmont—along with Ms. Buckley; Amanda Amirault, a veterinary technician at Bay State Animal Clinic in Danvers; Evan Franklin, the lead veterinary technician at Falmouth Animal Hospital; and Dr. Frank J. Alfano Jr., owner of Deer Run Veterinary Services on Teaticket Highway.
Their week-long trip was sponsored by several donors who covered everything from airfare to hotel to food to transportation.
The primary purpose of their visit was work, with three days devoted to surgery during which the contingent spayed and neutered 87 male cats, 49 female cats, seven male dogs and 13 female dogs.
That work, Dr. Hauser said, is important as it will help to reduce the number of strays on the island. “They estimated, based on the number of litters per year and the average life span, that this would reduce the future cat population by 4,500,” she said.
Issues with Overbreeding
Overbreeding and abandoned pets, Dr. Hauser said, are a significant problem on St. Thomas, noting that in the island’s one shelter they have “two-and-a- half times the carrying capacity. It is so over-full. It is supposed to house 40 dogs and they have 100.”
Dr. Hauser’s team tried to address that by bringing back five dogs and one kitten. This week a pair of miniature poodle puppies, 3-month-old brothers were adopted.
Also brought back was a dog named Arrow, a 3 1/2-month-old beagle, Labrador mix who was nearly euthanized in St. Thomas after being found with a deep wound caused by a chain that was embedded in its neck. Arrow has since been adopted by one of Ms. Buckley’s friends.
And Mr. Franklin brought back a kitten that he gave to his girlfriend. Another two puppies were sent to New Hampshire and are also in foster homes waiting to be adopted.
To learn more about the work done at Falmouth Animal Hospital visit their website here.
Dr. Hauser, who has been a veterinarian for 16 years, said the work done in St. Thomas was “enormously gratifying,” noting that she has done similar volunteerism in the past.
Prior to attending veterinary school at Tufts University she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and Belize, where she cared for horses for the Humane Society of the United States.
About seven years ago she spent a month and a half in Palau, assisting the island nation’s new shelter supervising veterinary students as they spayed and neutered cats. She also oversaw the country’s efforts as it wrote its first animal welfare and animal control laws.
Because those experiences were so rewarding, Dr. Hauser had been looking for similar ways to use her talents “and this fell in my lap... This feels really, really good to contribute in such a direct way. I think it is not just the welfare of individual animals, but a group of animals that are largely unwanted and there’s no sort of economics involved. This was just purely to help out with the population control problem and the animals’ own welfare.”
She said the St. Thomas venture helped deepen her understanding of the world and humanity. “The thing I took home from St. Thomas is what a group of animal lovers with very different backgrounds can do when they come together,” she said.
Dr. Hauser said she plans to continue her work on St. Thomas, however, from a more organizational standpoint by helping to draft a shelter policy that could help reduce the overpopulation problem on the island. “I want to continue working with them to give them basic protocols for how to manage the shelter, how to utilize the volunteers—their students who graduate high school have to do 100 hours of community service each—and how they can use that volunteer workforce to the maximum to care for animals at the shelter,” she said.