College of Veterinary Medicine Students Leave a Lasting Impact in Baja, Mexico

Pomona, Calif. - 08/28/2006 -- HarryThis summer, several College of Veterinary Medicine students went on a very special trip to help animals in Baja, Mexico, as volunteers at the Baja Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which is the only no-kill shelter in northern Mexico, provides a safe haven for dogs and cats in need. More than 300 canine residents and 75 feline residents are housed there at any given time. There is also a horse residing at the shelter.

The students who participated in this trip include Class of 2009 CVM students: Mindy Buswell, Alicia Elwell, Kelly Flaminio, Vanessa Fravel, Hana Hyun, Samuel Rivera, Dainna Stelmach and Lena Stuart and Avery Woodworth (CVM 2007). The student volunteers worked in teams and treated the animals at the sanctuary. They cleaned and medicated wounds, ears, eyes, trimmed nails, created treatment plans, de-wormed, administered medicine, and performed many other tasks. In an effort to help make a lasting improvement to their animal patient's conditions, the group worked with the santuary workers and discussed continued care, wrote out treatment plans in Spanish, addressed the concerns of the employees, and educated the staff at the facility.

One of the most challenging tasks they had to handle was treating animals in the isolation area, which proved more complicated than some of the other treatments they performed.

Lena"This is such an incredible learning and giving experience for everyone," said Lena Stuart. "For example, we rescued on pup that was covered in ticks and fleas. He was so infested that his gums were white. He had an open wound on his elbow and some of the bones were showing. This little guy (Harry) is now thriving. He is an amazing medical case also because he has Ehrlichia, a heart murmur (due to pulmonary stenosis), is anemic, and has a hypothyroid."

"There are a few other complicated cases at the sanctuary that you will not see often in the U.S., including parvo, distemper, and other various parasites," Lena Stuart continued.

The Baja Animal Sanctuary (BAS) is a non-profit animal rescue, rehabilitation and adoption group in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. The group was started by an American, Sunny Benedict, in 1997. Sunny was a real estate agent in Baja, and could not take seeing the many homeless and mistreated animals in Baja. She resigned from her job and started the rescue group on her own. The group does amazing work with the limited resources they have. They do not have a veterinarian, and all veterinary care comes out of donation funds. "The overall experience was priceless because we were able to provide some level of relief to these animals that have such a great need, and also because this level of exposure is just not available in a classroom," said Samuel Rivera. "I believe we contributed a brick in the wall of wellness for many of these dogs and I would definitely return to place an even stronger brick, when possible."

WesternU vetmed students in BajaOver the past year, several other CVM students have helped BAS in numerous ways. They have donated their personal supply of pet food to the sanctuary. They have also donated their various flea, tick, and heartworm medicine to BAS. Additionally, one of the college's clubs has sent out hundreds of letters to veterinarians and clinics in the area, asking them to donate anything they could, which inspired a clinic in West Hollywood, Calif. to donate two boxes of medicine, shampoo, fluids, etc.

The students are hoping to set up more visits and more programs with the sanctuary, in an effort to make sure there are sufficient supplies and training available at all times to keep the animals as healthy as possible. To learn more about the Baja Animal Sanctuary, please visit

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