project petsnip

Project PetSnip: Improving animal welfare one surgery at a time

Onpets interviewed veterinarian, Marc Kramer, DVM, about Project PetSnip , located in Miami, Florida.  Here is what he shared with us:

What is Project PetSnip and how does it differ from a ‘regular’ veterinary office?

marc kramer and eliana ardilaFirst and foremost, Project PetSnip is an organization founded by two passionate animal advocates: me and Eliana Ardila. Our primary goal was and is to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible spay and neuter surgeries to the community. Our stated charitable mission is to “improve the quality of life and decrease suffering for companion animals by stemming the staggering animal over-population problem and by providing veterinary health care to companion animals in need.” That said we aren’t a full-service veterinary hospital that provides all manner of veterinary services. We focus specifically on high-quality spay and neuter. While we do provide some other animal wellness services (e.g. vaccines, microchips, blood testing) concurrently with a pet’s spay/neuter surgery, we generally don’t make appointments for sick pets or even vaccine-only appointments. This strategy allows us to concentrate on our mission and hone our skills in the spay and neuter field.

What are the health benefits to animals who are spayed/neutered?

Simply put, spayed and neutered animals live longer lives. How? Well, there are many ways in which the benefits of the surgery manifest. It significantly decreases the incidence of breast cancer in females and prostate disease in males. Pets who are spayed/neutered are less likely to run away from home since they don’t have the innate desire to find a mate and reproduce.  This reduces the incidence of being hit by cars, getting attacked by other animals, catching infectious diseases, or being picked up by a local shelter. There are also significant behavioral benefits. We generally see less aggression, less territorial behavior, and a more stable temperament that doesn’t fluctuate with an animal’s sex hormones. Spayed and neutered pets tend to get along better in group situations with other animals. We also see less urine marking in the house and better litter box habits for cats and rabbits.

Why do you have a program specifically for “Bullies” and Chihuahuas?

bulldogBully breeds compose the number one type of dogs that end up in Miami-Dade animal shelters. Chihuahuas are number two. When we say “bully breeds”, we are talking about a large class of dog breeds that includes the American bulldog, pit bull-type dogs, English bulldog, boxer, bull terrier and a few others. We see more of these types of dog being surrendered to shelters and turning up as strays than any other type of dog. This is not only a trend here in South Florida but seems to be common throughout the United States. Bully breeds have large litters of puppies and it’s also more difficult to find homes for large breed dogs as compared to smaller breeds. For this reason, we have specifically targeted Bullies and Chihuahuas for spay/neuter so that we can reduce their presence in the local animal shelters.

In addition to these statistics and facts, in our hearts we are extremely passionate about bully breed dogs. These dogs have long been misunderstood and are often portrayed negatively by the media. However, from my own personal experience, these are very loving, loyal, easily trainable, kid-friendly, and intelligent family dogs. We don’t just talk from experience in working with them in the veterinary hospital, but I and many of our staff members are also bully breed owners. We want to advocate for them in a constructive manner and spaying and neutering is part of responsible pet ownership that will help to cast these dogs in a more positive light.

Why do you include rabbits, along with dogs and cats, as part of your practice?

bunnyThere are a lot of people in our community who have rabbits as pets. Despite this fact, there are very few veterinarians who are trained in the art of rabbit medicine and surgery. It’s very different from working with dogs and cats and requires specialized training and knowledge. Before I became active in the spay/neuter community, I focused my veterinary training and career on working with exotic pets (non-traditional pets other than cats and dogs). Back in veterinary school in the 90’s, I specifically geared my education towards working with these less common pet species. After graduating from vet school, I completed a one-year avian & exotic animal internship to hone my training specifically with these types of animals, and originally came to South Florida in 2000 to take a job at a veterinary hospital that specialized in avian and exotic pet care. So naturally, the spay/neuter and exotic pet veterinary niches came together for me and allowed me to offer this unique, valuable, and affordable service to rabbit owners in our community. There is also good reason for the common reference, “breed like rabbits”, and many more bunnies are born than there are homes for.  Spay/neuter is also critical to their long term health and provides many behavioral benefits as well. We offer the lowest cost rabbit spay/neuter service in all of South Florida, and we get clients from as far away as Orlando, Naples, the Keys and beyond. That said, we’d like to make our rabbit spay/neuter surgeries even more affordable and accessible for pet owners, but unfortunately we have not found any grants or financial support to help further subsidize the spay and neuter of rabbits. Most granting organizations focus on financial assistance with spay/neuter of dogs and cats but not other species. Any animal welfare organization in Florida that works with rabbits will vouch for the fact that rabbits are also commonly surrendered to shelters in large numbers or abandoned outdoors by their owners. We need to spay and neuter rabbits too to prevent the large number of homeless rabbits turning up at humane societies and animal shelters.

Do you engage in any animal welfare education efforts and, if so, what are they?

Thanks to the world of Facebook and Instagram, we are very active with our animal welfare education messages through social media. We post regularly on a variety of animal welfare and health topics and try to get our message out that way. We also set up booths at local events and farmer markets to get the word out about the importance of spaying and neutering. Every day, we communicate one-on-one with the general public through phone calls and email and can educate on an individual basis which is perhaps the most effective means. Lastly, we train pre-veterinary students from the University of Miami and Florida International University who volunteer for our surgery days.  Someday these students will become veterinarians and we feel the education we provide them with will also have a significant impact on animal welfare.

What do you think is the most effective way to reach the broadest audience about the benefits of spay/neuter?

dog with little girlI think reaching the younger generations through our school system is perhaps the most important and effective means of making a difference in this field for the future. We need to educate and get the message across to kids at an early age about the importance of animal welfare including responsible pet ownership and spaying and neutering. Beyond that, I find that talking to pet owners directly and individually gets the message across better than anything else. It’s a lot of work and time but makes a huge impact. Owners can see the passion we have to make an animal’s life better and the community better through spay and neuter.

Note from Onpets: Check out the free animal welfare lesson plans for Grades K – 8 prepared by United WAG.

Tell us about your work overseas: How do you decide where to go and how do you coordinate with the people and resources on the ground to do your work?

For international projects, we collaborate with other animal welfare organizations already working in other countries or areas. We’ve joined forces with International Spay Neuter Network in Jamaica, Caribbean Spay Neuter in Suriname, and the American Veterinary Medical Association on Native American pueblos in New Mexico. Making an impact in spay/neuter goes beyond our own community – there are many other areas of the world that desperately need assistance but may not have the means. Pet owners all over the world, including in developing countries, love their pets the same as we do but may not have the financial means or the proper veterinary resources to get those animals fixed and healthy. By helping animals in other countries, we are also helping the people and extending our impact to other communities. A lot of planning, coordinating, and paperwork is needed for these types of projects so we’re glad to have partner organizations that can help with some of the groundwork.

Besides Project PetSnip, which are your favorite animal welfare organizations and why?

birdEmancipet is a spay/neuter organization that started out small in Texas several years back and is now making a huge impact in this field. They are steadily expanding their reach to other cities and making spay and neuter more accessible and affordable for pet owners — and doing it with high standards. Outside of my veterinary work, I’m also an avid birdwatcher and nature lover and support animal welfare organizations that help support conservation efforts and wild bird populations like the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology  and the National Audubon Society.

Do you see any progress, not just in Miami, but around the country and overseas, in attitudes toward animal welfare in general and spay/neuter in particular?

I think we are seeing slow but steady progress in making a difference around the world when it comes to animal welfare issues. Local governments are focusing more resources into municipal animal shelters and saving more animal lives. Dogs, cats and other pets are becoming more integrated into the family instead of being considered possessions. Spay/neuter is slowly becoming more accepted and commonplace. Granted, there is still a lot of work to be done and progress to be made.

If you could make one thing happen to advance animal welfare, what would that be?

puppiesI think we, as humans, need to make a better effort towards the adoption of the existing homeless animals in our communities instead of breeding more and selling/buying them. In light of the current animal overpopulation crisis and how many perfectly healthy animals are euthanized in shelters worldwide because there are not enough adopting homes for them all, there should be tighter restrictions on the breeding and sale of animals, and stronger incentives for spaying and neutering. As Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. We should strive to bring the euthanasia rate of healthy pets in animal shelters down to zero so let’s all raise the bar and improve the greatness of our nations through improving the lives of our animals!

 

 

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