Sustainability in Bolivia

June 8, 2009

by Susan Monger, DVM

HSVMA Field Services, then known as RAVS, first went to Bolivia in 2003 and worked with Maria Barrientos, who at the time was a veterinary student.

Maria's passion for the care of animals and people in the impoverished country she called home led her to pursue her goal—to establish a sustainable program in La Paz, one of the most populous urban areas in Bolivia.

Setting a Good Example

Dr. Barrientos and volunteer spay cats
Dr. Maria Barrientos and a volunteer spaying cats at a clinic in La Paz, Bolivia.

Now a veterinarian, Dr. Barrientos heads up Animales S.O.S., a non-profit organization out of La Paz dedicated to the care and well being of people and animals unable to afford even the most basic of care.

Since 2003, Animales S.O.S. has sterilized over 7000 animals, primarily through the efforts of Dr. Barrientos and a few dedicated volunteers. In addition, they provide community outreach and work with the local government to help educate people on the advantages of sterilization.

Dr. Barrientos has also extended her efforts to the area of Santa Cruz, a neighboring city about a 15 hour bus ride from La Paz, to assist in the development of a similar program dedicated to animal welfare.

A Welcome Return

It is because of Dr. Barrientos, along with Nicole Martinez—another passionate voice for animal welfare in Santa Cruz—that HSVMA returned in the spring of 2009 to conduct the first intensive course in small animal anesthesia and surgery.

Dr. Barrientos supervising surgery
Dr. Maria Barrientos is now teaching other veterinary professionals in her country.

Our return was greeted with great enthusiasm by over 250 veterinarians and veterinary students attending lectures on anesthesia, surgery and pain management.

From there, our clinics concentrated on working with the faculty of the two veterinary colleges in Santa Cruz, as well as students in their final year of veterinary college.

Dr. Barrientos was integral to the HSVMA teaching staff and was also responsible for recruiting additional veterinarians from La Paz to participate in our educational efforts.

As a result of the success of this clinic, HSVMA will return to Bolivia in 2010, teaching in universities in both La Paz and Santa Cruz.

Striving for High Standards

Passionate voices in animal welfare exist all over the world, and HSVMA is fortunate to work with many of them.

The voices of people such as Dr. Barrientos, Nicole Martinez, and the faculty and students of the Bolivian veterinary colleges work hard with limited resources and unlimited dedication to improve the standard of care not only in Bolivia, but throughout Latin America.

These individuals are slowly, but surely spreading the word that all animals—even the perros callejeros, or street dogs, of Bolivia—deserve the highest standard of care and compassion we can provide them.

You can help support HSVMA, too—donate today!

Dr. Susan Monger is the Director of HSVMA Field Services, International Program.