Project Report: Training in Guadalajara


The Mckee Foundation training in Guadalajara, Mexico is dedicated to all the little donors from everywhere in the world who desire to do a difference for humane animal welfare on this planet.

Screenshot from 2015-11-18 19-35-384 veterinarians and 1 administrator from McKee Foundation traveled to Mexico from September 20th to the 26th of 2015:
-Dr. Yayo Vicente (Co-Founder and President of The McKee Foundation Strategy).
-Dr. Blas Rivas (Surgery Program Director and Head Spay/Neuter Surgery Teaching Vet).
-Dr. Olman Solano (Surgery Training Assistant to Dr. Rivas).
-Dr. Eduardo Bitter (Volunteer Surgeon of The McKee Foundation).
-Ing. Jennifer Rivera (Program Coordinator to The McKee Foundation).

Altering Euthanasia Practices in Jalisco Mexico

As of 2010, Guadalajara city is part of the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara (ZMG), of the Mexican state of Jalisco. The city has a population of 1 495 189 people and the ZMG has a total population of 4 434 878 people, making it the second most populous zone in Mexico and it is only surpassed by the Metropolitan Zone of the Mexico City (, 2015).

The Guadalajara Veterinarians from the Secretary of Health estimate that there is 1 dog for every 10 residents. However, based on his experience throughout Latin America, McKee’s President, Dr. Vicente, DVM, MPH, head veterinarian for the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, estimates that this number is significantly higher, as well as a published study by Ortega-Pacheco (2007) indicate that the ratio may be closer to 1 dog to every 4 residents in urban areas, and 1 dog for every 2 to 5 residents in rural areas.

The Municipal Government of Guadalajara current method to decrease the street dog population is to trap, house for five days and euthanize, if the dog is not claimed. The kill rate is 95%. The Jalisco state and Guadalajara`s Municipal Government want to lower this percentage. Besides humane concerns, the fiscal impact of sheltering and euthanasia –which does not affect reproduction rates and therefore is futile as a method of population control- is a major factor in taking a look at another strategy.

The Mckee Foundation was invited by the Government of Jalisco to visit Guadalajara city and teach the McKee’s surgery technique, our first visit was in October in 2013, where we trained 60 veterinarians and spay/neutered (s/n) 203 animals. Due to the success of the first visit the Mckee team was invited a second time in September of 2015. The Mckee Strategy not only provides a tool to humanely address overpopulation of companion animals, cost effectively, but also humanely addresses serious public health issues such as rabies.

The campaign was organized by the Secretary of Health of Jalisco on behalf of the International Day Against Rabies. The training consisted of two days of lectures about the steps to create a s/n community campaign, urban myths about neutering, veterinary emergency pre- and post- operatory, advanced techniques of spay, importance of neuter campaigns to decrease the population of dogs and cats. Followed by three days of training, in the Anti-Rabies Center of Zapopan.

There were 60 training veterinarians in total, from the government sector, 19 veterinarians from the secretary of Health, 3 from the Cocula’s Anti-rabies center, 2 from Tonala’s Anti-rabies center and 18 from Zapopan`s Anti-rabies center. The private sector was represented by 18 veterinarians. On the other hand, the registration of the animals, the recovery of spayed animals, post-operative instructions to the owners and the agenda of the whole campaign was led by Ana Couret and her Adopting a Friend Foundation as well as other NGOs like Protección Animal, Odes, Calle 0 and Aproda.

Each day of the training a veterinarian who excelled in the technique was chosen and given an award, the three top doctors were: MVZ Adán Gildo Cárdenas, MVZ Verónica Sotelo Villegas and MVZ Francisco Javier Mora Maldonado.

Screenshot from 2015-11-18 19-35-57Dr. Adán Gildo Cárdenas preparing for surgery.


  1. 60 key and influential Government and non-government veterinarians were trained in The Mckee Technique, small incision spay/neuter process*.
  2. 502 animals were neutered in total, 157 were felines (105 female and 52 male) and 345 canines (234 female and 111 male). Each veterinarian realized a minimum of 6 spays and neuters (3 cats and 3 dogs) individually.
  3. The DVDs with the specific instructions of the training technique were provided to all vets trained to ensure the review after the training in case of questions.

* Micro-laparotomy for ovary-hysterectomy in female dogs and cats, a technique that is less invasive, takes less recovery time, has a lower risk of complications, cuts surgery time, uses less anesthesia, its cost effective and can be performed in rural settings.

During the three days of practice spay/neuter the veterinarians faced some cases of emergencies due to the poor health of the animals or underlying medical condition and lack of experience in the new technique of the training vets. These emergencies were handled by the McKee training team, demonstrating how resolve such an emergency”.



Spay/neuter generated a positive impact on the reduction of canine and feline population of the state of Jalisco, in the same way decreases the rate of canine euthanasia in the state. During 2015, there were fewer euthanized animals than in 2014 in the state of Jalisco and fewer in the city of Guadalajara, see table below.


Data of euthanized and sterilized animals



Euthanized Animals

Sterilized Animals


Jalisco State

25 234

51 459


Guadalajara City

2 699

9 977


Jalisco State

1 544

40 565


Guadalajara City

1 845

9 007

*Until September 2015.
By teaching not only private practice veterinarians, but also Mexican government veterinarians that there is a humane alternative to lower animal population, cost-effectively, and addresses serious public health issues such as rabies and other zoonotic diseases, is a great step forward in animal welfare in Mexico.
McKee could not have taken this step if not for the faith in and support of the small donors and the doctors of the McKee Project Foundation. Thank you from McKee for making a difference in the dark corners of animal welfare.
A special thanks to the Markoff Foundation for starting the McKee Markoff Surgery Instrument Program for veterinarians in Latin America to ensure enough sterilized instruments for high volume spay neuter surgery.


Screenshot from 2015-11-18 19-36-17Dr. Bitter teaching two veterinarians the McKee technique.

Screenshot from 2015-11-18 19-36-26Dr. Rivas and Dr. Solano teaching the Mckee Technique.

Screenshot from 2015-11-18 19-36-40Dr. Rivas and Dr. Solano teaching the Mckee Technique.

What is the McKee Project? Learn about our History!

The McKee Project is a non-profit, animal welfare organization based in Costa Rica and the U.S., founded in 1999. The McKee Project U.S. was established as a 501c3 non-profit in 1999, and is the financial headquarters of McKee. The McKee Foundation, Costa Rica, is the executive headquarters, planning and implementing McKee’s programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The organization is governed by an Executive Board of Directors of eleven members. Current McKee Foundation President, Dr. Yayo Vicente, is a former President of the Veterinary Licensing Board of Costa Rica, former Chief Veterinary Officer of Costa Rica (National Animal Health Service, and Ministry of Agriculture), and is currently Chief Veterinary Officer for the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica. Ms. Christine Crawford, founder of the McKee Project U.S. also sits on the Board of Directors of the McKee Foundation.

The McKee Foundation’s programs in Latin America currently operate under two core areas: High Volume/High Quality Spay and Neuter, Community Outreach.

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Altering Euthanasia Practices in Jalisco Mexico, in Honor of Madame Jeanne Marchig

Mexican Government Veterinarian Training October 15-18 2013

Mexican Government Veterinarian Training October 15-18 2013

From October 15th to the 18th, 2013, at the request of Mexican government veterinarians, the McKee Team traveled to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

The Guadalajara Metropolitan and adjacent municipalities make it the second most populous metropolitan area in Mexico, behind Mexico City. It is estimated that there is a minimum of one dog for every 10 residents.

The Guadalajara Municipal Governments’ current method to curb street -or lost dog- population is to trap, house for five days, and euthanize, if the dog is not claimed. The euthanasia rate is 95%, McKee was invited to help change this and create a more humane and practical solution, by teaching it’s low impact high volume spay neuter technique and community-based strategy. The McKee Strategy has been a proven success in Costa Rica, where there are no government shelters. McKee approaches population control at the community level, where animals are born and live.


With support of the Minister of Health of Jalisco, Mexico, and from the Guadalajara Department of Animal Health, Mckee’s Advanced Spay Neuter Surgery Technique was taught to 60 veterinarians. The majority of veterinarians were from the government, with a small percentage from local animal welfare groups.

The McKee Strategy not only is based on it’s high-volume low impact surgery technique, but in a strategy that does not utilize shelters nor euthanasia as well as provides a tool to humanely address serious public health issues such as rabies control. Thus also making the Strategy attractive to governments whose primary concerns are cost effectiveness and public health.

Dr Gerardo  Yayo  Vicente

Dr Gerardo “Yayo” Vicente, presenting the McKee Strategy for humane companion animal control to Ministry of Health, Jalisco, and Department of Animal Health Veterinarians/ & NGO, in Guadalajara Mexico 2013

Jalisco:Guadalajara Mexico Government Veterinarian Conference

Jalisco/Guadalajara Mexico Government Veterinarian Conference, changing companion animal control strategy: Marchig McKee Training 2013

Dr. Blas Rivas presenting McKee S:N Advanced Surgery Technique

Dr. Blas Rivas presenting McKee S/N Advanced Surgery Technique to the veterinarians at Guadalajara, Mexico.

Department of Animal Health, Guadalajara, Mexico

Department of Animal Health, Guadalajara, Mexico, surgery training facility.

Dr Blas Rivas, McKee Chief Surgeon

Dr Blas Rivas, McKee Chief Surgeon, with veterinarians in Guadalajara s/n training.

Clients & their owners at Marchig: McKee Training at Guadalajara Mexico

Clients & their owners at Marchig/ McKee Training at Guadalajara Mexico, Department of Animal Health, 2013


-60 Government and non-government veterinarians were trained in the McKee Technique, a small incision which is less invasive, and can be provided in high volume, and cost effectively. Prior to the McKee Surgery training course, Guadalajara veterinarians only spayed or neutered (s/n) dogs that were in the peak of health. They did not s/n young dogs, older dogs, nor dogs with any “perceived” issues. The McKee Surgery Technique is very low impact: a small incision utilizing a spay hook & recovery time is quicker. The McKee technique also allows for high volume surgeries: instead of a veterinarian providing 3 to 4 spays per day, a practiced veterinarian can provide as many as 20, safely. The McKee Technique also impacts cost of surgery, as much as 60% less expensive, depending on materials available and quantities purchased.

-203 cats and dogs were spay/neuter as a part of the training.

-The Mckee Surgery Technique DVD was distributed to ensure veterinarians have the step by step surgical material to review after the course. This training material was in part made possible by funds from the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust.

-The McKee Foundation was invited to 4 other Mexican States to provide McKee Strategy Training.

News article about McKee Project spay and neuter in Golfito


If you would like to view dozens of photos from this McKee Project campaign please visit our Facebook page. This news article below was taken from The Costa Rica Star and republished here with permission.

Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica – September 2, 2013 – In keeping with the philosophy of the Zancudo Lodge in giving back to local communities, this past week, the McKee Project - a NGO non-profit teaching organization providing spay and neuter surgery training to Latin American veterinarians – completed 2 rural spay and neuter clinics in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica. This would not have been possible without the full support of the Zancudo Lodge, Dr Eduardo Bitter, DVM and Sansa Regional Airlines, Dr Andes Tello, DVM, and many dedicated volunteers from Zancudo (it takes a village to ensure change).

Over a period of two days, the McKee Project conducted 70 spay and neuter procedures. The McKee Project team members and volunteers worked at a pace of 15 hours per day, they were directed by Dr. Bitter, a veterinarian who has served the needs of the community in Escazu, Costa Rica since 1978. Dr. Bitter (photo above) is one of the most respected veterinarians in the Central Valley, and his clinic welcomes English and Portuguese-speaking owners of companion animals. Prior to the flight to Golfito, Dr. Bitter set the tone by reminding the team members to allow patience and kindness into their hearts during the campaign; his great words of advice were very valuable.

Assisting Dr. Bitter was Edwin, a hard-working Nicaraguan whose compassion for the quality of life of companion animals has been essential for the McKee Project. The team set up the clinic on the property of the Agua Vida Surf School and Lodge in Playa Pilon. This beach community was very interested in the spay and neuter clinic, and many of them who did not have any money for donations to spay and neuter their companion animals, so they provided fresh pipas (young coconuts) and food instead.

In Playa Pavones, the spay and neuter clinic was held under a tent, and the community was very friendly and welcoming. Just as in Playa Pilon, the McKee Project team members were showered with smiles and kindness.

This successful campaign would not have been possible without the generosity of the Zancudo Lodge and Sansa Arlines. Greg and Goldine, owners of the Zancudo Lodge, are longtime supporters of the McKee Project, and they really shone by hosting the team. They also provided food and transportation to the coastal communities. The Zancudo Lodge is a favorite among sport fishing enthusiasts who travel to Costa Rica, and their world-class restaurant is managed by a well-trained chef who is among the best in Costa Rica.

Air transportation from Base 2 of the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) to Golfito was kindly provided by Sansa Airlines. The flight was smooth and scenic, the aircraft was modern, and the crew was extremely friendly and professional.

Very important objectives of the McKee Project strategy were accomplished in the Pavones and Pilon Rural Clinics: demonstrating the importance of community support of spay neuter clinics, as a means to promoting good animal heath and responsible pet ownership.

The McKee Project wants to thank everyone involved in making this campaign a success. In exceptional circumstances the McKee Project will assist rural communities that have no local veterinary spay and neuter services or community volunteers.

If you support animal welfare through spay and neuter, please consider liking the McKee Project on Facebook.

Honoring the lifetime achievements of Madame Jeanne Marchig after her passing

Jeanne MarchigJeanne founded the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust in 1986 in memory of her late husband. Through the Trust she has supported many animal welfare projects and organizations, not only in the UK, but throughout the world, including the veterinary care and treatment of animals in developing countries such as the McKee Project, re-homing programmes for companion animals, the care, protection and rehabilitation of wildlife and educational and campaigning work against the inhumane treatment of animals. In 2010, the University of Edinburgh awarded Jeanne the Honorary Degree of Doctor honoris causa, “in recognition of her outstanding global contribution to animal welfare and animal welfare education”.

For the RDSVS, Jeanne will be best known for her generous and forward thinking support in funding the establishment of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for animal welfare education. Her vision was that the Centre would form an integral part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies creating a focal point for animal welfare education across the globe, collaborating with international partners to improve understanding of animal welfare issues and engaging with politicians, governments and professional organisations with the aim of improving animal welfare and promoting alternatives to the use of animals in education and research.

In an interview following the official opening of the Centre in May 2011, Jeanne said, “Vets are at the core of safeguarding animal welfare and through the Centre, they will be provided with the skills necessary to enable their voices to be heard in order to ensure that animals across the world are free from distress, suffering and hunger.” Jeanne’s passion for animals and tireless work towards improving their welfare will be missed by all who knew her, but we can take comfort in knowing that she was proud of the work achieved since the establishment of the Animal Welfare Centre at the Dick Vet, and she regarded it as her lasting legacy.

From all of us at the McKee Project, especially Christine Crawford the founder, we are deeply saddened and humbled by this news, and wish her family and the people she touched much success in continuing Jeanne’s vision for many years to come.

Original text above taken from the University of Edinburgh, with changes made to allow publishing on the McKee Project website.

Why is spay and neuter for companion animals important?

The McKee Project Background 8

Introduction to The McKee Project Methodology

Over the past 12 years, The McKee Project/McKee Foundation has developed and taught spay and neuter techniques to 650 plus veterinarians in 8 Latin American countries. The reason McKee believes this teaching is critical is that the majority of veterinary schools in Latin America do not teach how to spay and neuter companion animals, as they do not believe it is a commercially viable practice and more importantly, a humane strategy to control overpopulation. Traditionally veterinarians in Latin America are trained for agricultural animals or for food supply safety. Veterinary care for dogs and cats is not even a consideration.

The McKee Spay Technique takes minutes, utilizing a spay hook, and makes incision of about one inch – this is less invasive procedure, quicker, less traumatic to the animal, and approximately 60% more cost-effective. This quicker & less invasive technique allows countries to provide service to the thousands or millions of animals on the street much more efficiently.

The result of McKee Project’s training has in the fact created a cultural shift where veterinarians are shown that spay and neuter of companion animals can be commercially viable by the creation of a new client base of dog and cat owners, as well as creating a new relationship between owners and their healthier pets.

Besides spay neuter training for vets and their communities, McKee believes that pet “owners” need to be trained to invest in their animals as well. There is a cost associated with spay and neuter of companion animals, based on each veterinarians cost & owner’s ability to pay. Initially assessed by owner resources, the cost is minimal.

When spay neuter is first introduced to a community Mckee finds that 10% of the companion animals from the area take advantage of the low cost service. Over time, neighborhood animals are seen to be healthier and thrive without multiple litters. Slowly but surely more and more owners seek spay neuter.

Statistics show that 70% or more of the companion animals in each area must be sterilized in order to have a marked effect/control breeding of unwanted and uncared for dogs and cats.

Thus Mckee has a big job if we are to make a difference. Through your donations we can ensure this slow & culturally altering educational and training process happens in volume across Latin America, that it impacts the suffering of animals that are abandoned and abused from lack of housing, food, water, and companionship of humans.

Below there are statistics from in regards to spay and neuter in your community, below that is a pyramid to show you how fast cats and dogs can multiple their numbers if left unchecked.

In an “ideal” situation where food and water are present, and there is the right amount of space, 12 cats can turn into over 2,000,000 cats in under 10 years. Which of course is totally unsustainable and unrealistic for a community to deal with.

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McKee Project featured in Sept 28 2010 Tico Times article

The-Tico-TimesDear Tico Times:
“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”
– Jane Goodall

View original article here.

Costa Rica is truly a paradise and, the longer I live here, the more I realize how proud we all should be of the country’s underlying philosophy for animal protection: animals should live in their natural environment, without cages. This philosophy – championed years ago by such pioneers as Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey – is essentially the same as that of the McKee Foundation (, founded by a Costa Rican veterinarian, Dr. Gerardo Vicente, and myself.

The existence of this national animal protection strategy became clearer as I planned the itinerary for the recent visit of Dr. Luke Gamble, founder of Worldwide Veterinary Service in the United Kingdom (, and his film team from Red Earth Studio (

Per the film producer’s request, I sought “shelter-like” facilities for Dr. Luke and crew, so the doctor could spend time at a facility and offer free veterinary services to animals in need.

The most interesting programs I found were the ones that support animals in their natural environment. These programs were founded by dedicated and unsung heroes and supported on a wing and a prayer. I was blessed with meeting many of these heroes as I worked on the doctor’s itinerary.

While here, Dr Luke visited and filmed Kids Saving the Rainforest (, in Quepos, and Hacienda Barú (, in Dominical, one of our first ecotourism spots where Diane Ewing set up a community outreach clinic for horses and cows to be treated by Dr Luke. Karen Graumann arranged a stunning few days with Carol and Earl Crews working and filming at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary (, and, at Animales de Asís in San José, Dr. Luke received McKee Foundation surgery training from Dr. Rivas and Dr. Solano (McKee surgery chief and assistant), who have taught over 500 vets spay and neuter surgery techniques for rural conditions in some six countries. If you are interested in community training, please contact A follow-up community outreach spay neuter clinic with Dr. Luke was co-sponsored by Zancudo Lodge ( and Dr. Eduardo Bitter of the McKee Foundation on the island across from Golfito.

Unfortunately, Dr. Luke and the crew were unable to visit Marc Ward at Sea Turtles Forever ( – an amazing organization in Guanacaste, or the Sloth Sanctuary in Limón (

As a co-founder of the McKee Project and Foundation – which serves disenfranchised dogs and cats by training communities to create a better cultural environment and be proactive in dog and cat care – this work has been a gradual lesson for me, too.

Whatever your interest, for example if you see that park rangers are needed in a nearby reserve, or if you believe stronger protection for whales and oceans is necessary, please get involved and help create change. The animals and the environment need you.

There are many organizations worthy of support in Costa Rica, and spay and neuter efforts by local veterinarians need your support, too.

The program filmed in Costa Rica is scheduled to air in the United Kingdom, on SKY, on Feb.12. For more information, write to Red Earth Studio at

Christine Crawford
McKee Project/McKee Foundation

McKee Project featured in Jan 4 2010 article on Luke Gamble’s Vet Adventures

Luke Gamble Vet AdventuresView original article here.

I should explain that the McKee Foundation was set up by Christine Crawford – a very charismatic and determined lady who has driven forward the idea of controlling the street dogs of Costa Rica. The Foundation has a no shelter philosophy and whilst I can’t quite agree with this, having visited so many great shelters that do amazing work and met so many incredible people that run them, I do believe in having a strong focus of community outreach and trying to encourage community responsibility for street animals. There is no denying that the Foundation has made a massive impact here and I am sure will continue to do so. Christine really has done wonders.

The thing that allows community outreach to be so effective in Costa Rica is having a great team running the programmes here. They have a strong emphasis on education, marketing and public relations as well as ensuring very fast surgeons are on the spay neuter team and to that end, the technique Christine and Dr Rivas have developed is focused on spaying bitches in less that 10minutes whilst the ‘owners’ wait. It is a very economic procedure – short cuts have to be taken for cost reasons – it isn’t very sterile for example – but the speed and non invasiveness of the procedure is undeniably impressive. The incision is typically 1cm in length, sterile cable ties are used for tying off the vessels and only one stitch is used in the muscle and one stitch in the skin. Before the skeptics kick off – Dr Rivas has been doing this for ten years and the follow ups on the communities where he and his crack team of vets have visited have shown a complication rate of 1 in 1000. I am sure that 1 in 1000 complications (post op infections for example) is the same sort of rate for private UK practice and Dr Riveras does indeed take about 5 minutes in a straight forward bitch.

I have never been a massive fan of worrying hugely about speed as long as the bitch is good and the surgery is safe, but faster surgery does mean quicker recovery and less risk of infection. All the bitches get pain relief and antibiotic and I was definitely impressed. You need a spay hook for the technique and it is midline, but if it goes well – it is brilliant. As with all fast spay techniques, if you drop a ligature (or cable tie!) you’re in trouble and the anaesthetic protocol of zoletil, acp, ketamine and atropine gives you about 15minutes at the outside – but we got through about 15 surgeries in about 2 hours – and it was an eye opener as they do all the prep, saving, premed etc themselves. There are some good tips I picked up and it is fascinating to learn these different techniques.

Great news is that I passed the exam – had my training, did a couple of spays using the McKee technique and I’m now able to work as a vet with the charities out here. End of the day we polished off a quick 250km drive to our next destination on the Pacific coast to help a charity called Kids Saving the Rainforest… gets a bit hotter down south so whilst people may be braving the freezing weather in the UK spare a thought for the film crew, working hard at 30 degrees heat in tropical lush rainforest by the unspoilt beaches of the pacific. It’s tough.

McKee Project featured in The Bark Magazine

The Bark MagazineView original article here.

Over the past decade, as Christine Crawford has been developing her unique animal welfare model and rolling it out across Costa Rica, she has noticed some significant changes. For starters, these days, it’s rare to see a dog lying dead along the highway, and the dogs she encounters are generally much healthier than they used to be. At the same time, she’s seen a host of new veterinary clinics open up in almost every neighborhood of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city — something she interprets as a clear sign of the growing value being placed on companion animals. But what really caught her attention was the recent arrival of upscale doggie boutiques and the introduction of canine couture.

“We went from a culture where people would kick and starve their animals to a place where you can now buy dresses for your dog in shops in San Jose,” says Crawford, who moved to Costa Rica from her native California in the mid-1990s. “Never in my life would I have thought it possible. It’s like night and day.”

Acknowledging these positive developments in Costa Rica is about as effusive as Crawford will get in describing the impact that the McKee Project ( — the animal welfare organization that she founded in honor of her “second” mother, Mary Ann McKee, in 1997 — has been having on the lives of animals. While legions of animal advocates are unflinching in their praise for what she and her dedicated staff are accomplishing, Crawford isn’t likely to view McKee as a success until every village in every country in Latin America and the Caribbean has its own well-trained vet with a long line of clients eager to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered.

Crawford herself was just such an eager client in search of just such a well-trained (or even competent) vet when she first settled into life in San Jose and realized the deplorable conditions companion animals faced. From emaciated dogs hunting for scraps to abandoned pregnant females and newborn puppies tossed on the trash heap: she couldn’t escape the daily parade of misery. Her first response was to carry dog food with her at all times. Her second was to reach out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA told her that the only sure way to improve the lives of animals was to stop the cycle of procreation. They sent her literature on spay/neuter and suggested she find a local vet who would help her launch a sterilization campaign.

Crawford followed that advice, scouring the city of some 4 million people for vets to enlist in her cause. She found just 10 who even treated small animals. (Because Costa Rica’s economy is primarily agricultural, most vets focus on large animals.) Of these 10, only five seemed competent, and even those five tended to approach a spay surgery as though it were a heart transplant. A typical incision ran the length of the animal’s rib cage all the way to the pelvic bone in a brutally invasive procedure that required an array of equipment, supplies and personnel, and took about 45 minutes to complete. Even worse, the trauma was so severe that mortality rates were shockingly high. The whole thing was barely tolerable for an individual animal, let alone a viable model for a large-scale campaign.

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McKee Project featured in June 11 2009 Best Friends Animal Society blog

Best Friends Animal SocietyView original article here.

By Sharon St. Joan, Best Friends Network

In 1994, Christine Crawford went to Costa Rica for a vacation. Struck by the idyllic beauty of the countryside, she never left.

Everything took at bit of getting used to though–back then, there were hardly any roads, for example.

Christine had never paid a lot of attention really to dogs and cats, but she couldn’t help noticing that there were a lot of dogs being dropped off. Most of the vets in Costa Rica were agricultural vets–not really trained in the care of small animals.

The dogs that were dropped off always looked hungry, so Christine began carrying around bags of dog food wherever she went.

She got her first advice in how to begin helping the dogs from PETA. They suggested to her that the best way to help would be to start a spay/neuter program.

Dr. Nemo, a vet just out of vet school, volunteered to help her.

A makeshift surgery

When Dr. Nemo, Christine, and another vet, Dr. Adrian, set out to do their first spay/neuter project, they drove for four hours to get to a town on the beach of the Pacific Coast, “Jaco.”

They stayed at the house of a friend of Christine’s–and used her kitchen as an operating room! For recovery, the dogs stayed overnight.

While the two vets were doing surgeries, Christine walked around town, recruiting clients. She had to explain to everyone what spay/neuter actually was.

The whole idea of spay/neuter seemed quite strange to people. Christine says, “Their relationship with the medical profession is different. If they are sick themselves, they go to a pharmacy, not to a doctor. In a really extreme situation, they will go to a hospital.” So the concept of taking their dog to a doctor to have an operation at first seemed really odd to most people.

This first spay/neuter project took place in ’97, and they did about half a dozen spay/neuters–all of owned dogs.

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Cat Cafés Solve a Hairy Problem

Years ago, while my husband and I were enjoying a meal at a beachside hotel, a cat jumped on the table, landing in my husband’s plate. He used up all our napkins wiping kitty’s feet. Not everyone is so sanguine about cats in his food, but the furry felines, like us, are attracted by the tantalizing smell of good cooking.

The idea of Cat Cafés came about because the abundance of strays that hang around hotels can create problems, one being that the guests like to feed them.

Carla Ferraro, coordinator of the animal welfare group McKee Project in Costa Rica, is getting across the idea that the solution to stray cats is not eliminating them but controlling them. That’s how Cat Cafés came about.

“Getting rid of the cats means there’ll be more cockroaches, rats and mice, and in six months’ time more strays will start coming around,” she pointed out.

Cat Cafés are areas on hotel grounds where cats can live. The strays are captured, neutered or spayed, vaccinated and dewormed, and their ears are notched so that there are no repeats.

The Cat Café includes open-sided shelters with sleeping areas, feeding trays and even toys and a sandy sanitary area as a bathroom.

The hotel provides the cats food from its kitchen, as well as cat food, to keep the animals in the pink, and volunteers and veterinarians check periodically to see that the cats are taken care of and that newcomers get equal treatment. Because the cats are in close contact with hotel guests, it’s important that the area and the animals are clean and healthy.

How do hotel guests feel about finding cats in residence? Many like it.

“One of the problems before was that guests fed cats all over the grounds, luring them into buildings and leaving food in odd corners,” Ferraro explained.

In addition, garbage containing food scraps attracts cats, which then reproduce, multiplying the problem.

“With Cat Cafés, guests who want to interact with the feline force can feed them and play with them in the café area, and those who don’t want cats around needn’t even see them,” Ferraro said.

One hotel with a Cat Café is Condovac in Playa Hermosa, on the northern Pacific coast.

“They had a cat problem for years,” Ferraro said. “Their idea was to round them up and get rid of them. We convinced them that’s only a temporary solution. It’s better to ‘control’ the cats.”

The hotel now has 22 resident cats, and guests seem to enjoy them.

It’s not easy getting hotels and institutions to accept Cat Cafés.Many would like to do it but have doubts, including concerns about health, keeping up the grounds and possible complaints from guests.

“A Cat Café may seem like an added burden, but it’s more of an added attraction,” Ferraro said. “People like to feed the cats and play with them, or just observe them.”

Cat Cafés can be adopted by institutions. The newest is under construction at El Buen Pastor women’s prison in the southern San José suburb of Desamparados. Ferraro said it took convincing to set up a café to control the cats that wandered in. Many of the women prisoners liked having pets around, but they were feeding them all over the yard.

With a Cat Café, the cats will have their own area and the women can take responsibility for their care.

While the McKee Project is leading the way with Cat Cafés, other organizations are also contributing. The National Animal Health Service (SENASA) checks the health of the cats, while the National Association for the Protection of Animals (ANPA) helps with volunteers and equipment, such as humane traps and cages, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) provides funding.

Ferraro, 34, has had a lot of experience with both cats and hotels. As a former events manager at a hotel in the central Pacific coast town of Jacó, she became concerned about the cats and dogs that roamed the area. She organized spay-neuter and adoption campaigns and got to know the people working with the McKee Project, which promotes spaying and neutering and trains veterinarians in safe, easy operating methods. Ferraro now coordinates McKee activities for Costa Rica and has helped get the program started in Guatemala.

“We believe that Cat Cafés will work,” she said. “More hotels and institutions have to see Cat Cafés as a humane solution that leaves everyone happy, including the cats. It’s a win-win situation.”

Source: Tico Times

McKee Project Coordinates Meeting Between Several Non-Profits in Guatemala

Einstein Retired Street Dog

Einstein Retired Street Dog Reporting!

Woof, woof from Panajachel! This is Einstein, retired street dog reporting . . .

There is plenty to share on the animal front, so, noses in the air, let us get sniffing out the scoops!

The greatest news for the animals this week is that at long last the x-ray machine has arrived at Zoo Mascota! All of us thank those of you who contributed to this important addition to our clinic. We only have to wait a little bit longer for the shipment to arrive from Dr. Jim in the US with the developing tanks, hangers and other peripheral stuff. Kizzie, Tootsie and I are lined up and ready for a good look at what’s going on with us. Wag of the tail to all!

Another “giant leap” for animal-kind in Pana is happening on the Humane Education front. Program coordinator, Marilena de Perez told this reporter that “classes are scheduled to begin on 28 February in Capulin Elementary School. The team has developed 8 lessons plans that include such topics as bite prevention, human and pet needs for life, responsible care for a dog or cat and more, all presented in a playful but informative fashion”. The Humane Education team includes Joan Qualthrough, Helen Rosales and Carmen de Hunt, Capulin School principal. Wag of the tail for you wonderful volunteers!

More good news came out of Guatemala City earlier this month. The McKee Project, based in San Jose, Costa Rica coordinated a meeting between several nonprofit animal welfare groups, the University of Veterinary Medicine, the Colegio (the licensing agency for Guatemalan vets), vets and others active in animal welfare. McKee principals, Carla Ferraro, Dr. Gerardo Vicente and Christine Crawford presented the objectives of the Project and won unanimous support from all.

McKee is chartered to train vets throughout Latin America in small-incision spay and neuter surgical procedures. This technique requires less anesthesia and only one or two stitches for closure thereby reducing post-op infections and stitches opening. Animals recover quicker and with less side affects. It also enables vets to lower their prices on sterilization surgeries.

Mayan Families director, Selaine d’Ambrosi stated, “Due to the training Dr. Miguel received in Costa Rica, our post-op problems have dropped dramatically and the price for our low-cost clinics has been reduced from $30 – 50 per animal to a $25 flat fee for all. We are also fortunate to have other vets and students attending our clinics for training. Licensed, practicing vets are encouraged to participate and after thorough training, are allowed to perform surgeries during the clinics. Last-year vet students from the University attend primarily to observe and are offered practice on incisions and stitching only. They pay for their training through contributions of pet food that helps support the Food Supplement Program.

Dr. Andrea Portillo and Gina Illesca have been appointed co-coordinators for the McKee Project in Guatemala. A big WOOF WOOF and wag of the tail to all involved in this important effort towards better, less expensive veterinary care and reduction in overpopulation!

The Healthy Pets program is happy to announce two new members of the team! Marvin, a pre-med student began work on Monday. He is organizing a comprehensive database, promoting the clinics, assisting the humane ed team and helping out at Zoo Mascota in the mornings. Welcome, Marvin!

Ishmael, a ten-year-old charmer is also on board at Zoo Mascota in the afternoons. He works after school walking the dogs in long-term care or boarding. He also helps Juan clean kennels, the grounds, give baths as well as feed and water everyone for the night. Welcome, Ishmael!

Several good folks have dropped by to see me at my retirement home. It’s always good to see friends! Some asked if the municipality poisoned recently because they’ve noticed a decrease in the number of street dogs. Of course, I immediately jumped into action, called my buddy, Julio who in turn called the mayor’s office. The answer is NO, neither the Muni nor Centro de Salud is poisoning.

Do you want to keep these agencies from poisoning innocent, helpless animals? Do you believe that sterilization is the humane answer to overpopulation? Do you believe that humane education in our schools will help the next generation grow into more compassionate adults that will provide good care for their pets? If so,

We Need Your Help!

Please join others in making a monthly contribution towards Mayan Families Healthy Pets.


McKee Project featured in March 1 2007 Animal Fair article

Animal FairView original article here.

Costa Rica, a beautiful country that lies on the Central American isthmus, is home to 5% of the world’s bio-diversity and has a reputation for 115 years of undisturbed democracy. Costa Rica also vetoes euthanasia, and animal shelters are scarce. This “no kill, no shelter” policy has drawn the attention of many animal advocacies. Although the policy is applauded, another problem surfaces: overpopulation. Costa Rica is also home to three to five hundred thousand stray animals. The country relies on low-cost, community based sterilization and foster care for strays. To regulate the issue of overpopulation, communities need to unite and work towards a solution. This does cost money, and not every individual has the financial means to aid half a million stray animals. This is why the McKee Project was founded.

The McKee Project, founded in 1998 by animal advocate Christine Crawford, is an organization that carries out the “no kill, no shelter” sterilization program throughout the country. McKee works with local medical workers and trains them to carry out a low cost spay/neuter procedure. The Ministry of Health loans anesthesia machines to communities in support of this mission. In return, these clinics spay/neuter a certain amount of animals each year. Thanks to these donations of machines and supplies, it is cheaper for pet parents to have their animals spayed/neutered (previously, many people did not have their pets spayed/neutered due to the cost). Now that McKee has the aid of numerous associations such as the Ministry of Health, the National Veterinary Association and the local Colegio de Medicos Veterinarios, more and more pet parents and foster pet parents can have the animals fixed.

There is an assumption that once an animal is brought to a shelter, they are in good hands. Many animals that are brought to shelters in Costa Rica breed freely or are euthanized or frivolously given to the first person to show an interest in adopting. Placing an animal in a shelter in a third world country is almost an act of cruelty. These countries don’t have the resources or money to properly care for street animals. The animals often go hungry, get sick or are released after a certain period of time to make room for new street animals. McKee not only stress population control but also creating a proper home for these animals. On the first Wednesday of each month, McKee meets with all local organizations to discuss new ideas and solutions for overpopulation as well as how shelter animals can be placed properly. Many of the animals that McKee deals with are either privately owned, or stray but in the hands of “feeders”. A feeder does not own the animal—they are merely a source of food that the animal frequently visits to stay healthy. Although a feeder’s act is cordial, their generosity contributes to the problem by keeping the animal healthy, on the street and ready to breed.

McKee also stresses the importance of help coming to the animal (as opposed to bringing the animal to a new place). McKee feels that is important to work locally. This way, McKee can train local vets, implement their resources directly to where the problem is at hand and keep the animal in its familiar environment. McKee was founded in the U.S., but through collaboration with the Costa Rican Licensing Board of Veterinarians, they were able to come to Central America. McKee has also launched a mission in Panama, and most recently a surgery team in Managua, Nicaragua.

McKee spays/neuters 7,000 animals annually. This is a triumphant feat; however, there is much more work to be done that can only be accomplished with the assistance of communities. To see how one can become involved with the McKee Project or to make a donation visit their website:

McKee Project featured in December 2001 Animal People News article

Animal People NewsView original article here.

Dr. Yayo Vicente, DVM, policy advisor to the Costa Rican Veterinary Licensing Board and former board president, shocked even unconventional thinkers at the No Kill Conference in Tucson 18 months ago when he explained that Costa Rica has no animal control shelters and does not want or need any. But Vicente made a point that was hard to deny: shelters take a lot of money to build and run. Even the U.S., spending $2 billion a year on animal sheltering, between public and nonprofit investment, does not yet have complete shelter coverage of every community. After more than a century of energetic shelter-building, half of the rural counties in the U.S. still have no shelter, public or private–but shelter-building proved to be an ineffective response anyway to the problems associated with homeless dogs and cats. Enough shelter space can never be built to contain every dog and cat without a home, so long as dogs and cats breed freely. Nor is it possible to lastingly reduce dog and cat overpopulation by killing the surplus. No matter how many dogs and cats are killed, the fertile remainder can always breed rapidly up to the carrying capacity of the habitat, somewhere between becoming a public nuisance and suffering starvation.

Developing nations, Vicente emphasized, cannot afford to repeat rich nations’ mistakes. Besides, he said, Costa Ricans love their animals. They do not wish to have so many that stray dogs and cats spread disease or harm wildlife, but they do not wish to slaughter them, either.

Animal control shelters will always be slaughterhouses, Vicente said bluntly, if dog and cat reproduction is not controlled before the shelters are built. If the population is controlled, the role of animal control shelters in housing the relatively few animals who require quarantine or special care could be done as efficiently by shelterless nonprofit humane societies.

Since then, Vicente’s “no-kill, no shelter” concept has proved an attractive theme to the Ticos, as Costa Ricans call themselves. Indeed, it echoes the national motto: ¡Pura vida!, meaning “Pure life!”

About 60 veterinarians participate in the McKee Project, the largest of the many “No-kill, no shelter” sterilization programs in Costa Rica, founded in 1998 by American expatriate Christine Crawford with the help of then-Veterinary Licensing Board president Alexander Valverde, DVM.

The most unique aspect of the McKee Project is that–at Valverde’s suggestion–it loans U.S.-built anesthesia machines to Costa Rican veterinary clinics on a semi-permanent basis, in exchange for the clinics doing a specified volume of low-cost or free dog or cat sterilization surgery.

The incentive works, the anesthesia machines make high-volume sterilization surgery faster and safer, and Crawford says the biggest problem with the program is that it could easily deploy twice as many of the $4,000 machines than the 10 it already has, if it could afford to buy more.

Vicente succeeded Valverde at the Veterinary Licensing Board in February 2000, after Valverde took a teach ing post at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Vicente gave the McKee Project added status by creating the McKee Commission within the Licensing Board to help run it.

There are many other “No-kill, no shelter” projects in Costa Rica. Some, like the outreach clinics hosted by the Asociacion Nacional Protectora de Animales, are much older. The significance of McKee, Vicente explained, is that it arrived at the right time to form a coordinating umbrella for all the projects, with no pre-existing political alignment and the opportunity–since McKee is incorporated with nonprofit status in the U.S.–to reach beyond Costa Rica.

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