Spaying and Neutering Dogs and Cats in Mexican Communities
Ester y Liza is such a great name for a sterilisation programme. I’m a dog, so I don’t know what humans think, but I picture two beautiful people saving all the homeless puppies and kitties in Mexico. It turns out I’m not wrong, except there are more than two. So, get yourself a refreshment, and get ready to learn how a Mexican family and their friends are making the world a better place, one ovary and testicle at a time.
Ester y Liza is a relatively new face on the block of sterilisation programmes in Mexico. We can never have too many. Did you know that Mexico has the most stray dogs of any Latin American country, with estimates ranging from 15-18 million dogs living without a home? It would be an understatement to say we have a problem. As a former Mexican street dog, I feel safe saying it is a disaster.
Stray dogs suffer terribly and usually only live until they are around three years old. If you don’t particularly care about how much we suffer, let us quickly look at the other reasons why everyone, dog lovers and the dog-indifferent (No human can really hate dogs. I refuse to believe that.) need to take this seriously.
Dogs catch diseases that make them very ill and pass them along to other animals and even humans. Dogs cause a lot of mess when looking for food, emptying rubbish on the streets, and the poop. Oh my. You don’t even need to try to imagine. I’ve done the maths. That’s over six million kilos or six thousand tons of poops daily. We bark at night and get in the street and cause car accidents. Then there is the environmental impact. Sadly, us dogs hunt when we are hungry and not taken care of, and conservationists have noted that we are becoming a danger to wildlife, especially endangered species.
The thing is. None of this is our fault. It’s the fault of humans, and only you humans can fix it. Fortunately, people like Jorge Kendall, his family, friends, and a community of volunteers understand this and are leading the way toward positive, realistic, and effective long-term solutions. So, who are these humans, and what are they doing to save millions of dogs and cats from neglect and cruelty?
Many years ago, Jorge started to help stray dogs in Mexico City. You may not know this, but Mexico City has government-funded veterinary clinics that provide subsidised spaying, neutering, and other services. It turns out that a lot of people who lived in Mexico City didn’t know this either and Jorge was shocked that the clinic he used was always empty. It made no sense.
He asked the vet, but no one could give him an answer. As a person who looks for solutions, he started promoting the clinics and paying for social media advertisements himself. This was so successful that he began to promote the other subsidised clinics in the city with similar results. Once people knew help was available, they started coming.
Greater Mexico City is massive, almost 8,000 square kilometeres. Not everyone had access to subsidised veterinary care and sterilisation. Never one to turn down a challenge, Jorge talked to the government-funded veterinarians and came up with a plan to do outreach into areas that needed their assistance.
In 2020 Jorge moved to Merida, and it didn’t take him long to discover that the areas surrounding the city needed help too. So, guess what he did. He arranged to bring the veterinary team he already worked with in Mexico City down to Yucatan to do outreach clinics here regularly. Now, every six weeks, Ester y Liza and their merry band of four veterinary surgeons, along with a group of volunteers, visit a local town or village, where they have been invited to sterilise cats and dogs, and change those communities forever.
Maybe you think I’m being a bit dramatic, but it is true. Sure, they save thousands…wait…millions of lives by spaying and neutering, but there is so much more to it. Jorge explained that many communities, through poverty, a lack of access to good information, sometimes no access to veterinary care, and living with the societal classism that underlies many of these problems, have become desensitised to cruelty, particularly to animals. This had never really occurred to Jorge until he started doing this work and then, after being invited to return to communities, for follow-up campaigns.
What he witnessed and learned was that sterilisation programmes such as Ester y Liza, which are organised on a grassroots level, involving community leaders, engender empathy, understanding, and kindness. So, let me tell you how that works, because it almost seems a bit magical.
First of all, Jorge doesn’t believe that people value free things. This is important on different levels. If you can easily access puppies and kittens for free, why would you value them? They are easily disposed of and easily replaced. But what happens when someone invests little money into that puppy or kitten? Suddenly, it has value.
For this reason, Jorge doesn’t believe in offering free spay and neuter services. The group charges a nominal amount of $300 – 400 pesos for a surgery. There are occasions when this fee is waived, for example, when someone is running a small rescue in their home. Otherwise, it is seen as an investment and is the first step to helping people discover the value of their companion animals. That may not seem like a lot of money to many of my readers, but that is a full day’s wage for many people in Yucatan.
Once Ester y Liza has been invited to a community, local supporters will go door to door to inform the community and register their pets. It has to be community-led, or it just won’t work. The local leaders participate by providing a workable space. It might be a school or a municipal building. Local businesses get involved by providing food and drinks for the vets and volunteers. It brings people together, and then, collectively, they witness the love and attention lavished on every single dog and cat by the medical staff and volunteers. This is where the change happens.
When people see how much these visitors to their community, these strangers, love and care for dogs and cats that they don’t know, they want to start loving and caring for their pets too. Watching a volunteer painstakingly clean their dog’s wounds, remove ticks from their ears, stroke them, and speak to them tenderly changes perceptions.
When the dog and cat owners are called to come and help their pets recover from the anaesthetic, they receive information about how they can provide better care for their pets and are shown how to gently massage and stroke them until they come around. Watching the bond grow during these precious moments makes it all worthwhile.
Even better is that it doesn’t stop there. When the team returns to a town, they can see the changes. There are fewer strays, dogs are healthier, and people who brought their pets to previous clients have become their biggest advocates. They, in turn, bring along their families and neighbours. It is inspiring for everyone involved, and I have to say it again, millions of cats and dogs are saved from suffering.
My human has volunteered at a couple of these clinics. The clinics operate over three days, normally in three different towns or villages. To give you an idea of how busy these three-day clinics are, at the most recent, which included Oxkutzcab, Motul, and Ekmul, 463 cats and dogs were sterilised. That’s a lot of ovaries and testicles that will no longer be able to contribute to cat and dog overpopulation in Yucatan.
In 2022, the goal for Ester y Liza is to spay and neuter 3,000 cats and dogs in Yucatan, and, ambitiously, they will aim for double that in 2023. That’s incredible, but it isn’t enough.
If you’ve read my blog, you have heard about the other fantastic sterilisation organisations working to tackle overpopulation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could all combine forces, organise, strategise, lobby local government officials for finance and enforcement, and turn the tide of dog and cat overpopulation?
I’m just an ex-street dog, but that’s my dream. I have faith in you, humans.
Before I finish, I need to know that you all understand what a marvellous bunch of family and friends Jorge has around him to help make this all happen. I got a list directly from him because, as we all know, great things happen when great people work together.
Maricarmen Payes (Jorge’s mother)
Ariadna Payes (Jorge’s cousin)
Jose Payes (Jorge’s uncle)
Kiki Payes (Jorge’s aunt)
Kitzia Payes (Jorge’s cousin)
Adrian Perez (Jorge’s cousin’s boyfriend)
Aracely Carrillo Ruiz (family friend)
Lucia Ugalde Camaal (family friend)
Erika Ruiz (founder)
Citlali Medina (founder)
Pilar García (founder)
Montserrat Jauregui (founder)
Luis Roberto Perez (founder)
And all the volunteers who come from all over the world.
And finally, I must mention April, whom Jorge met when she brought her dog to be sterilised at one of the clinics. She now works for Jorge and helps at the clinics. That’s another life changed.If you want to support the work that Ester y Liza here are their points of contact:
The video below must be seen to be believed. Jorge’s commitment knows no limits. This is how he rallies pet owners to attend a sterilisation clinic in a Yucatan village.