San Diego, May 21, 2016 – Sweetwater High School, located since 1920 on the corner of Highland Avenue and E. 30th Street in National City, is home to over 40 student-based clubs and organizations including the Animal C.A.R.E. Club.  Founded on the principles of Compassion, Advocacy, Respect, and Education, the club meets each week during lunch to discuss animal welfare issues, plan volunteer activities, and inform the student body at-large about proper pet care standards and other humane practices.  According to Carlos Palomino, a senior at Sweetwater High and current C.A.R.E. Club president, “the criteria that all members must have are simple; dedication and a passion for animals.” This dedication was demonstrated on May 21st when the club hosted the Spay-Neuter Action Project (SNAP) Neuter Scooter for an “all Pit Bull and large dog” spay/neuter clinic to help save thousands of lives by tackling the root cause of pet overpopulation.

Palomino first became interested in the C.A.R.E. Club after a friend who was serving as the Club’s secretary recommended that he join.  He said, “I got involved in Animal C.A.R.E. when I was a freshman and they had their first SNAP event. The coming together of students to help the animal community inspired me to take initiative to help all animal kind.”  Like the annual election of officers, club members use a voting system to decide which activities suggested during their meetings to pursue. One such activity recommended by Mrs. Campbell, former C.A.R.E. Club Advisor, was the planting of Milkweed seeds to provide a food-source for the Monarch Butterfly population migrating through San Diego County.  Other volunteer endeavors include San Diego Bay Clean-ups, Ferdinand’s Familia, County shelters, and events with SNAP through a long running partnership.

SNAP has been part of the San Diego community for over 25 years.  Since 2003, it has been providing affordable spay/neuter clinics to income-challenged pet owners with unaltered pets living in critical pet overpopulation areas of San Diego County.  To date, over 55,000 animals have been fixed aboard the iconic “Neuter Scooter” self-contained surgical bus, and the numbers continue to climb in part through its partnership with the Animal C.A.R.E. Club.  Palomino said, “the SNAP bus will help not only pets but pet owners. This will be an educational experience for all involved and this will prevent the tragedy of finding beloved pets dead on the side of the roads and unwanted euthanasia at the shelter.”  Following a presentation by SNAP on the importance of spay/neutering, he reached out to Program Director Dorell Sackett about concerns over the excessive number of surplus animals in surrounding neighborhoods. SNAP was invited to attend the C.A.R.E. Club’s next meeting to begin collaborating on ways to address the problem of pet overpopulation in this community under-served by affordable spay/neuter services.

The collaboration resulted in the planning of three specialty spay/neuter clinics on campus grounds.  With the “all Pit Bull and large dog” clinic successfully completed, one for “all cats” will follow in July and “small dogs” in September.  While the two remaining clinics will take place inside the surgical suite of the Neuter Scooter, the limited number of oversized recovery kennels located within the bus precipitated a different configuration for May 21st.  To accommodate the 28 large dogs (and two cats!) that received the gift of a spay or neuter, the school’s gymnasium was transformed into a “mash” unit. A considerable effort went into coordinating a clinic of this magnitude!  First steps included approval by school administration and agreed upon date followed by scheduling of the medical team, recruiting volunteers to transport the operating equipment, assembling recovery crates, guiding clients and their pets through the check in process, monitoring post-surgical animals, alerting medical staff when animals awaken from anesthesia, preparing “take home” instructional packets for pet owners, and breaking down the clinic.  C.A.R.E. Club members were on hand to assist with the set up evening before and day of event beginning at 6:30 am. Other volunteers included Sweetwater High students from all grade levels who need to complete 30 hours of community service prior to graduation. Vice Mayor Jerry Cano honored the event by personally thanking the Animal C.A.R.E. Club and Spay-Neuter Action Project for their efforts in reducing pet overpopulation in National City.

Today’s young compassionates’ at Sweetwater High School are making a difference in their community to benefit the well-being of animal generations to come.  Yet, the interest does not stop there. As reported by Dorell Sackett, “a former Animal C.A.R.E. Club member who graduated from Sweetwater High School a few years ago is now part of our medical staff as a Registered Veterinary Technician.”  Even Palomino has aspirations to continue the work started four years ago when he joined the C.A.R.E. Club. He said, “I plan to continue to volunteer at Ferdinand’s Familia because it is the most magical place on earth to me. More people should volunteer at a rescue ranch because it really is a therapeutic experience.”