Life-saving Mission

Eau Claire vets travel to treat Honduran pets

Bailey Berg

Dr. Bob Bohacek treats an animal  in a makeshift hospital in Honduras.
Dr. Bob Bohacek treats an animal in a makeshift hospital in Honduras.

On a recent World Vets mission trip, a Peace Corp volunteer entered the makeshift clinic carrying a stray puppy named Feaita. The villagers had given the puppy the moniker – meaning “ugly girl” – and chased her away. Feaita was starving, having tried to survive off of garbage.

“She was destined to die,” said Dr. Bob Bohacek, a veterinarian at Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital in Eau Claire and a veteran World Vets volunteer. “Our group took her in, got her well, and someone brought her back to America. She now lives with a vet who is completely in love with her.”

Since 2010, Bohacek has taken numerous volunteer trips with the Fargo, N.D.-based nonprofit group World Vets to provide aid to animals that wouldn’t otherwise receive it all around the world.

“The extreme poverty in the area was an eye-opening experience. But even in situations like that, the bond that exists with people and their pets is universal.” – Veterinarian Bob Bohacek, on his volunteer missions treating animals in Honduras

Bohacek had always entertained the idea of going on an animal mission trip, but many of the offered trips were tailored to those who treat large animals, such as cows and horses. It wasn’t until he was flipping through a veterinary journal that he read about the small-animal mission trips available with World Vets. He jumped on board and three years ago made his first trip to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.

“The extreme poverty in the area was an eye-opening experience,” Bohacek said. “But even in situations like that, the bond that exists with people and their pets is universal.”

Since that inaugural trip, Bohacek has also done missions in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, but he keeps returning to Roatan.

“Along the way I became good friends with the local people,” Bohacek explained.
 It was those friends who urged him to come back, but this time to go deeper into the island. On his trips with World Vets, Bohacek and the others veterinarians were cloistered on the western half of the island – an area where roads are paved and cruise ships are frequent visitors.

“They talked to me about the need in an area that was too remote for World Vets to go, but where a lot of medical attention was needed,” Bohacek said. “There just aren’t services in that area of the island.”

Bohacek’s friends showed him that on the eastern half of the 30-mile island, unemployment is rampant, law enforcement is nonexistent, and education is only through the fifth grade, although many children can’t attend school because they don’t have the money to buy the uniform.

The area is also rife with animal overpopulation because few animals are spayed or neutered. There are many strays, many of them bordering on emaciation. Unfortunately, Bohacek said, the overpopulation problem is handled with gruesome techniques such as poison, shooting, and – in some instances – animals being hacked by machetes.

Bohacek decided to get off the beaten path – literally, as there is only a single unpaved road on the eastern part of the island – and led the first privately funded veterinary mission last October. In the course of three days, Bohacek spayed or neutered 56 dogs and cats, provided surgery, and treated ringworm and various tropical skin and tick diseases.

“It was incredibly well-received and so appreciated that we were asked to come back again this year,” Bohacek said. “As odd as it sounds, this was new to many people, but now that we’ve had the clinic there is a greater knowledge and confidence in it.”

After the success of last year’s trip, Bohacek is anticipating a much greater demand for veterinary services, so he enlisted backup. Dr. Todd Leavitt of Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital, along with three technicians and two assistants, will be joining the expedition this October.

Prior to the trip, the group needs to raise an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 for medical supplies and medications. The group’s major fundraiser has been a reduced-cost spaying and neutering clinic. The first was in May, and another will be Sept. 7-8. All of the proceeds from the clinic will go toward funding the trip.

Anyone interested in getting involved can donate by visiting oakwoodhillsanimalhospital.com and clicking on the “Honduras Mission” tab.

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