Surgery in the Community Center

The Placencia Humane Society had its start by literally going to the dogs – a dog show that is. Included in the dog show schedule was a meeting among a small core of Placencia residents and Dr. Michael DeShield and his wife, Miriam DeShield, to discuss the needs of Placencia’s pets and pet owners, including regular veterinary pet care and education of pet owners.

The Placencia Humane Society was founded and elected its first set of officers on 28 October 1999.  (PHS was originally a sub-chapter of the Belize City Humane Society, but incorporated as a Belize not-for-profit membership corporation in 2005.)

With Dr. Mike and Miriam’s help, PHS began to work toward achieving these goals by sponsoring regular monthly vet clinics – a challenging task in a small village in southern Belize.

Children's Movie Bug
Children’s Movie Bug

Supplies were stored at volunteers’ houses and had to be transported (often by wheelbarrow – the main mode of transportation back then on a peninsula with only one unpaved road and a sidewalk) to the clinic site.  A site for the clinic also had to be found each month – often it was in someone’s house (or under someone’s house) with surgery and examinations on the kitchen table.

Clinics usually had running water, but sometimes not, and definitely no surgical lighting, no examination room or examination table, no lab and often no bathroom.

Going to See Dr. Mike
Going to See Dr. Mike

Although challenging, PHS’s first year (1999-2000) was a success for a peninsula with a population of under 1000 people – providing 112 vaccinations, 22 dog neuters/spays, 15 cat neuters/spays and 4 TVT treatments.   In its first year, PHS provided BZ$1,080 in vet care subsidies – and raised BZ$5,620.32 (US$2,810.16) through donations and fundraising events.  Gifts well exceeding all of our expectations!

In late 2000/early 2001, Jake Roberts and Brad Turton, owners of the Purple Space Monkey Restaurant, made the downstairs of their home available for vet clinics.

It was small, but at least there was a stable location for the clinic, and PHS soon began to expand from just providing a monthly clinic into educational outreach to local children, an informal spay and neuter program in an attempt to deal with an outbreak of TVT (transmissible venereal diesease) among local dogs — and to reduce the number of feral cats in the community.

Sidewalk to teacher's House 2
Placencia Village after Hurricane Iris

And then came Hurricane Iris, a Category 4 hurricane that destroyed most of Placencia and Seine Bight Villages in 2001.  Emergency clinics were held in half-destroyed buildings and Dr. Mike and Miriam supplied emergency rations of dog and cat food — and themselves slept on the beach in a tent while on the Peninsula providing emergency veterinary care.

Emergency Vet Clinic
Emergency Vet Clinic

Many people were homeless, and most of the Peninsula had no electricity, no water, no roads, and not many buildings.  It was a daunting time, but the love of the Peninsula’s animals kept the dedicated volunteers going.

Peninsula communities were mostly back on their feet by late 2002 – when PHS was able to reach an agreement with the Placencia Village Council for the use of the Village Community Center for monthly vet clinics.

Clinic Waiting Area
Clinic Waiting Area

Supplies still had to be hauled in each month, and the exam/surgical table was an old Fishermen’s Cooperative cooler with a board on top, but the Community Center had lighting, fans, chairs, running water (no hot water, but plenty of water), a blackboard that could be used to separate the examination/surgical area from the waiting area – and it was BIG, so that people and their pets had a place to wait out of the rain and sun.

Old - Janet Parks - dog run
Residential Fencing Program

With the Community Center as home, PHS began implementing community programs with a vengeance – subsidized veterinary care for pet owners who could not afford pet care, a dog fencing program to help people keep their pets safe without chaining them, satellite shelters to care for abandoned/rescued pets, feral cat trapping and neutering, and children’s programs including essay and art contests.

However, the lack of a permanent home for PHS and its core monthly clinic continued to be an issue that consumed much volunteer time.  And, as the Village grew, so did the potential for conflicts in the use of the Community Center with the Placencia Community Center being the only indoor public meeting and activity space for the entire Peninsula.

PHS Clinic Building - and a new sign!
PHS Clinic Building – and a new sign!

PHS began searching for a permanent home, while continuing to carry on its monthly clinic, feral cat, adoption and rescue, and children’s education programs, until 2011, when Frangipani Limited (Franco Gentile and Mariuccia Levoni – Franco Gentile was honored at PHS’ annual general meeting on 27 January, 2017.) leased a small piece of ground on the Placencia Lagoon to PHS through a low-cost (BZ$100/US$50 a year) lease that expires on 20 February 2021. PHS now has a small clinic building on the property that includes an air conditioned surgical and examination room, storage, and is equipped with basic office necessities and a small waiting area — all the comforts of home!

Kids — and rabbits — always welcome at clinic!

PHS has used this clinic building to expand its reach into the neighboring communities of Santa Cruz, Georgetown and Independence, to provide spays and neuters to local residents, and to work with visiting veterinarian groups to reach more pet owners with basic veterinary care.  And, PHS continues to subsidize veterinary care for those who can’t afford it, provide emergency rescue and adoption services, trap, neuter and release feral cats – and operate its core monthly veterinary clinics residents have come to depend on.

From an annual budget of approximately BZ$6000 in 2000, the PHS annual budget for 2015 is BZ$40,000. Less than 5% of PHS’s budget goes to operating expenses with nearly 95% of its budget allocated to its animal care programs.

With the continued support of animal lovers, PHS will be able to continue providing and expanding veterinary care and advocacy for the four legged residents of the Peninsula, as well as education and outreach for its two legged ones. Your generous donations are always gratefully accepted!!

If you would like to donate, become a member, volunteer or receive more information about PHS, please contact us through our Contact Page, or by email (info@placenciahumanesociety.org), our Facebook page, or call us at 501-604-8676.