Enabling pets to gain access to veterinary care is at the heart of the Banfield Foundation’s mission, so we jumped at the chance to join Spayathon for Puerto Rico, a coalition created by the Humane Society of the United States, which is comprised of 26 national and international groups. Through four week-long clinics taking place between June 2018 and May 2019, Spayathon for Puerto Rico is committed to spaying, neutering and vaccinating at least 20,000 pets on the island—an island which is still struggling in the aftermath of last year’s devastating hurricanes. So far this year, more than 16,000 cats and dogs have been spayed or neutered and the initiative is on track to impact 30,000 by May 2019.

Banfield Foundation’s own Steve Kenton was onsite in Puerto Rico during the November clinics to lend a hand at one of the Spayathon events. We sat down with him to get his perspective on this historic effort.

Why did you want to go to Puerto Rico to be part of this event?
In my role with the foundation, I spend a lot of time helping coordinate preventive care clinics and talking with the nonprofits we partner with, but it’s all done over email and phone calls. I really wanted to get out from behind the desk and see firsthand what it takes to pull off an event of this magnitude, and to be able to meet people face to face. Those in-person interactions make such a difference when building relationships in the community.

What takeaways did you have from the trip?
This was such a successful event. Every day they set new records for the number of dogs and cats treated, and yet, there’s still so much more help needed. It motivated me to try to think of new ways that we could support these events. I also talked a lot with people who run small non-profits on the island. They had no idea that they could apply for grants to help fund their programs. They’ve been relying entirely on donations through social media or GoFundMe campaigns. It was great to be able to tell them about the Banfield Foundation and our programs. It opened up new opportunities that they didn’t know existed.

What part of your experience made the biggest impression?
People’s commitment to their pets. This clinic was first come first serve, and demand for services is very high. Some people slept in line overnight to ensure their pets could be seen. They took such pride in being able to get their dogs and cats the care that they needed.

I was also impressed by the community’s willingness to pitch in and help. People who came with their pets ended up assisting at the clinic while they were waiting for their pets to be seen. When there was a request for volunteers, people raised their hands immediately. Puerto Ricans have been through so much in the last year, but they didn’t think twice about lending a hand for the greater good. They have an unending commitment to each other that is inspiring.

What was your favorite moment?
It’s hard to pick a singular favorite moment of the trip, but I was struck by two main things. First, the generosity of the nonprofit partners and volunteers coming from as far away as the UK and South Africa to donate their time and expertise. This was matched only by the love and sense of pride local pet owners had for ensuring their pet’s quality of life was going to be better each and every day after the Spayathon. When you have commitment and energy from volunteers and a sense of pride by pet owners, the outcome is incredible. I feel grateful to have played a small part and walk away knowing all of the pets that were cared for are happier and healthier than they once were.

Banfield Foundation’s support for the Spayathon of Puerto Rico is made possible thanks to our generous donors and Banfield Pet Hospital clients and associates. To learn more about the Spayathon or to donate, visit BanfieldFoundation.org/donate.