I love traveling to Nicaragua, and the difference we make there is one that you can clearly see. However, each year that we traveled down there I couldn’t help but feel some guilt for all of the people close to home who also need our help. Right here in Philadelphia we have the exact same issues that they have down on Big Corn Island – people with animals who do not have access to vet care, can’t afford vaccines or spay/neuter, can’t afford to protect their pets with monthly preventatives, or to treat them if they develop an illness. Access to care, as well as not being able to afford it, are two of the most common reasons that dogs and cats end up in shelters.
We decided that we wanted to run a BCI style clinic right here in Philly, and dubbed it the Brotherly Love Clinic. Over about 9 months we plotted and planned, and worked with city officials to find a space, raise funds, and line up the volunteers to make the event a success. We were able to fundraise over $10,000 towards it, and we partnered with both ACCT Philadelphia, and the Ian Somerholder Foundation, so we could reach as many people as possible.
We chose an area of Philly that traditionally does not have a lot of local access to free or low cost veterinary care, and were able to talk our way into using a rec center gymnasium to function as our clinic for the weekend. It took quite a bit of convincing, as some of the members of the board were NOT into having hundreds of dogs and cats in their space, but we eventually won them over and assured them we would be respectful of their space! The whole process of setting up this clinic still has me in awe that we pulled it off – we coordinated over 50 volunteers over 3 days between set up, running the clinic, and tear down. I called in favors from 8 of my veterinary friends, who donated their time, experience, and equipment to help us too. We had hundreds of pounds of food donated, as well as thousands of dollars of flea/tick and heartworm preventatives and medications either donated or purchased.
Our goal was to treat the whole pet – so not just perform spay/neuter, not just give out vaccines, but also educate and treat illness. After setting up late into the night on Friday, we showed up early on Saturday am not knowing what to expect….but as is typical for all our schemes, there was a line of people waiting so long that it was down the whole block, and around the corner!! The people of Philly were so appreciative – many waited in line for up to 6-8 hours for the chance to receive help – and they did so patiently and with kindness. It was a humbling experience.
All in all that weekend we were able to spay/neuter 184 dogs and cats, and vaccinate or medically treat 486 animals in total. We were so busy, we had to turn people away – but were able to hand out free vouchers for other spay/neuter services so they could still follow up and get care. The response was insane! So many people came, so many pets were helped – it is incredible what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish in such a short time. Nearly 500 animals helped in just 2 days. Due to COVID, we were not able to do the clinic again in the past year, but we are hoping to try again either later this fall, or in spring of 2022 – so stay tuned! We are also working on other ways to help in smaller ways in the meantime, and are excited to roll out a new program next month – so stay tuned for more info there too, and ways to help!