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: www.mckeeproject.org