After operating for 6 years in Hoi An, building the first nonprofit vet clinic in Vietnamese history, the first farm sanctuary, and the only vegan education program from a foreign-managed organization, I had to make the decision to close. This was by far the most difficult decision I have ever made in both my professional and personal life and one that has had a major impact on my health and future, not to mention the life of the rescues. I did not make the decision lightly, but after so many years of incessant struggle, loss after loss of not only those we tried to save but the foundation of our vet work, I felt this was the only way forward. I can outline some of the reasons here that helped make that decision.
- Funding has proven to be virtually impossible to get at the level necessary for any solution-based project, particularly any that are non-speciesist and focus on NOT hoarding. We do not provide what donors want, which seems to be verbally condemning the dog meat trade while simultaneously holding BBQ fundraisers and showing pictures of a lot of white people hugging a lot of doggies and kitties on beaches. We believe in mass sterilization, vegan education, and veterinary capacity building, not Bandaids on bone cancer. ENDING animal cruelty will not come from ignoring its root cause.
- Since our vet clinic had to close due to drastic reduction on funds and the difficulty in getting and keeping decent staff, we cannot provide the care necessary for our existing rescues, much less those who we should be adding to our shelter. NO vets= NO rescue. Period.
- When we tried to move to Hanoi where we would have access to properly trained international vets and would be able to service a much larger need where there are no international organizations handling domestic animals, we could not get the funding and support for the move. We found what can only be considered the perfect house to use as the shelter and adoption center in which we could also use for building a social enterprise to make the organization partially self-funding, but no one got behind this plan. We lost the house after searching for it for 6 months and living in it for only 3 months.
- Finding reliable and qualified vets, shelter manager, and admin staff/volunteers is almost impossible in our location. While Hoi An is a great tourist location, it is not a place where people with the intellect, experience, and qualifications come to settle in Vietnam. It is primarily a holiday location. In addition, those people who we really need to carry on long term projects are experienced and qualified from other countries where they can make a TON more money with real benefits and much less stress than at our clinic and shelter in Vietnam. Long term staff are vital to any project like ours in which all our programs are geared towards long term, systemic change, not Bandaid fixes that look good for media and donors who don’t know any better.
- The work conditions are the best possible way to burn anyone out. The lack of resources- financial, material, and human- make the job difficult, but also doing so in Vietnam in which almost nothing functions and we lack support from both the government and society over all for our mission adds a layer of complications that make life a living hell most days. In addition, the idea of having any time off, any money to just basically care for ourselves and basic things like health care, makes this a poisonous job. I am blessed/cursed with a slightly higher level of energy and motivation than most people and if I cannot pull this off full time, I am not sure who can within safe limits without a severe cocaine addiction and a trust fund. The work caught up with me, and it broke down a lot of others.
- The level of veterinary care in central Vietnam is absolutely bottom rung. After living in Vietnam for 7 years, I still cannot get used to the fact that the average vet still thinks its OK to feed cats just rice and cutting open animals is fine without basic sedation. Diagnoses are off the charts stupid and that has not changed as diagnostic equipment available locally has improved. Without the basis of a decently close diagnosis, it’s impossible to receive treatment that is appropriate, so the mistreatment of clients is widespread. This is not going to change without a complete restructuring of the veterinary industry in Vietnam that includes scrapping and starting over with their university curriculum and throwing a ton of international veterinary professors and clinicians into train local vets. The public health system is inefficient, decades behind where it should be, and rarely is accessible or affordable for the people who need it most. This is no different from the veterinary industry, so if they are not able to get their human health system together without massive international investment, how on earth can we expect it to happen to the veterinary industry. Without good vets, we cannot provide the appropriate care for the rescue cases we encounter. The absence of vet care in rescue is nothing more than abuse carried out by people who care, but ultimately are not qualified to manage the cases they take in. Being professional means doing things right, not playing doctor with suffering animals.
- The number of animals we can take in is greatly limited by our resources, but also by the fact that we cannot get a large plot of land to take a ton of animals. If we could, most would not likely ever find homes within the country as there are so few good adopting homes that have access to good vet care. We do not adopt to areas in which our rescues will not be able to access appropriate health care.
As you can see, we had our reasons. It has been extremely difficult to face the end, but we ar facing it head on with all the intention in the world to ensure every single animal gets to a place where they are loved and cared for by decent vets. That can be Hanoi, Saigon, Europe, or North America.
To find out what we are going to do for the future, check out my next blog!