My visit to the Dominican Republic
diary of a journey
(08/28 - 09/14/2012)
The South Coast
After 3 days at Kim’s I continued my journey to the south; with a small boat across the Samanà Bay and then with busses and “Gua-guas” via San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana to Bayahibe.
Denise Zdena had once sent me a message on Facebook: If you ever come to the south coast, visit us. We’re trying to do something similar to that what the A.A.A.S. does in the north.” Well, I had to check this out! Bayahibe is a pretty little town which has much to offer to tourists interested in water sports, fortunately yet without the big hotels and huge residences of the well-to-do typical for the tourist hot spots around Punta Cana. Denise and her husband have a diving school here. We met at a small bar at the entrance of Bayahibe. Denise showed me around, found me a place to stay and then…
…she introduced me to Yanela Hoyo who has founded the association Collares Rojos only 2 years ago.
Yanela, who was born in Cuba, has sold her restaurant and quit her job to dedicate all her time to animal welfare.
During the next days I went for walks with the dogs and accompanied Yanela on her tours through Bayahibe. Wherever there is an animal in need, Yanela helps, regardless if it is homeless or if the owners can’t or won’t take care of it. Everyday she visited a chow chow whose owner was in hospital. Without Yanela the dog would have starved or died of thirst.
Once a month 5 vets spay and neuter 50 – 60 animals in Bayahibe. Four of them, a Puerto Rican vet and 3 Dominicans, work in a clinic in Santo Domingo. They stay at Yanela’s during the clinics. The fifth vet is Dr. José, also from Puerto Rico. He used to work in Santo Domingo as well but has now a clinic in Bayahibe. Yanela helps there to take care of the animals and her mom works as the clinic’s secretary and receptionist. Dr. José has his „normal“ clients but works at cost for animal welfare, just like his colleagues from Santo Domingo. A spay or neuter + a rabies vaccination cost 550 Pesos. Collares Rojos get most donations from their friends and supporters on Facebook. I noticed that in Bayahibe, just like in Sosúa, most dogs are spayed or neutered and well-fed. A lot of animals are being brought now from surrounding areas to the monthly clinics. But Collares Rojos also had terrible set backs during the past 2 years. Several times large groups of neutered dogs have been poisoned in the vicinity of hotels. And Yanela told me about horrible cruelties, about dogs that had been raped or burnt with acid like the poor Amore who nearly died but could be rescued and will be in good enough shape to be adopted soon.
The ground for the shelter was offered by Carmen.
She is forever grateful to Yanela for the help she received at a time when this kindhearted, animal-loving Domincan lady had been completely overtaxed with about a dozen starving dogs she had taken in.
I met Dr. José when I accompanied Yanela to the clinic with an emergency: A bitch had suddenly developed a growth at her belly; she was lethargic, didn’t eat and ran a fever.
I witnessed a unique clinic : The patients are free to move around unless they are in quarantine or in particular need of rest. Dr. José doesn’t believe in keeping animals in cages.
Sticker sarcoma is a venereal cancer transmitted during mating. It usually affects the genitals but can develop at any part of the body when, for instance, puppies are infected at birth.
3 days after my arrival in Bayahibe Yanela, Dr. José and Annabelle, one of the vets from Santo Domingo, drove to Cabrera in the north where the American association Animal Balance was setting up a field clinic. I went with them because I had to go north anyhow and I wanted to talk to director Emma Clifford about her experience with the zinc glucomate compound Neutersol, a chemical means to neuter male dogs by injections into the testicles. Animal Balance has used Neutersol on a large scale on Samoa and Galapagos. Canadian friends of Collares Rojos went with us. They wanted to go up to Cabarete and took me right up to Judy’s door. On my lap travelled a young male dog, hardly 6 months old, which had been hit by a car and was rescued just at the moment when somebody had wanted to stuff the injured puppy into a garbage can. The young dog was handed over to a friend of Collares Rojos on the way who was going to take it to the clinic in Santo Domingo where the screw was to be removed that still stuck in its injured hip. The little guy needed also chemotherapy for some sticker sarcomas at the mouth and lips. Apparently the puppy had been infected by its mother.
The Collares Rojos members, Emma and I had an interesting discussion about the dog poisonings that happen again and again in various parts of the Dominican Republic - among the victims always also dogs that have been spayed and neutered already - and what to do about this. I told them how the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society had proceeded in order to get permission to spay and neuter in the first place: When the Antiguan government had decided to kill all street dogs, the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society collected thousands of letters written by tourists saying that they wouldn’t return to Antigua if the street animals were killed instead of being fixed. The message came across: The government’s decision was reversed and the Humane Society got permission to spay and neuter. It should be possible to employ such a tactic also in the case of animal poisonings in the Dominican Republic since also here tourism is the largest industry.
I didn’t have a chance to talk to Emma about Neutersol anymore because I had to catch my ride back to Sosúa but we exchanged addresses for future contact. Yanela, Dr. José and Annabelle stayed. They wanted to ask for support from Animal Balance for projects in La Romana and Higuey, 2 cities full of four-legged misery but much too big to be taken on by a small organization like Collares Rojos alone.