When working at Misión Nevado, it is not uncommon for things to happen to you like being late for a job meeting or an interview with Últimas Noticias because they called you to help a dog that was "detained" by some policemen. Yes, the dog was taken "prisoner" after the animal showed its teeth to a neighbor when he was fighting with his human. "A whole lawsuit for coexistence, where the neighborhood animal always pays," explained Maigualida Vargas, president of the Nevado Mission, when he was finally able to make it to our appointment.
With this anecdotal case that he called “the prisoner dog”, Maigualida Vargas, between laughter and enthusiasm, began his conversation, which from the first moment already referred to the dedication and commitment of this woman for the animal cause, who clarified that she did not She is a veterinary doctor, but rather a lawyer by profession, which has given her a pragmatic vision of the animal world, accompanied by her passion and love for animals.
-When did you start your work as an activist in defense of animals?
-I have had animals all my life. But my formal work as an activist began in 2007, 15 years ago with the Fundación Animal Vargas team, in La Guaira, which was a space where a completely free service was provided, which we developed together with Civil Protection and the Mayor's Office. of Vargas. Later we had to assume the Nevado Collective, which Commander Chávez founded for the preservation of our Mucuchíes National Dog and which later in 2013 took the form of a Mission under the decree of President Nicolás Maduro.
-What do you think have been the main achievements of Misión Nevado throughout these 8 years?
-The first achievement that we can recognize is that access to veterinary medicine went from being a privilege of a few who could sterilize and vaccinate their dogs, to a right that we have been strengthening through 33 free veterinary centers deployed in the 24 entities of the country.
Another of the most important achievements that gives legal support to the first, is the fact that we are the only country that has a policy of protection for animals of a National nature. Generally, this issue is attributed only to municipalities that want to commit themselves to this cause. In contrast to this, the National Executive has used resources so that despite all the adversities, the furry ones of the house have access to comprehensive care.
-In what position is Venezuela with respect to other countries in relation to the issue of the defense of animals?
-In issues such as the overpopulation of animals in the street, animal abuse and the exploitation of wildlife, we are not in a very different situation from other countries. It is known that on this issue there is a fight that has produced good results especially in European countries, however Venezuela has certain aspects that place it in an advantageous position in animal matters, to name one: We have a Law for the Protection of Wild Fauna and in Captivity, which although it is not the most up-to-date, places us among the few countries that have a legal instrument specifically for the treatment of our animals.
In terms of state institutions, we have the active commitment of the Public Ministry to penalize cases of animal abuse and thus generate greater awareness in the population about respect for life.
Thanks to social networks, there has been a greater participation and interest of the public to censor cruelty against animals, or any damage that is linked to the animal movements of the country. However, this issue must be handled with great responsibility and care because it is very easy to misrepresent the cases and therefore instead of helping, it is harmed -the lawyer added.
What is expected with the reform of the Animal Protection Law?
The main purpose of the reform is to generate the recognition of animals as special subjects of law because they are sentient beings, without discriminating between pets, wild animals or those for consumption. Everyone has the right to a life free from human abuse.
On the other hand, the Law must be updated to the new realities. To the needs and duties of protectionists and foundations, to the other instruments that link the forms of life and the protection of the planet, such as the Plan for the Homeland, even to the new reality left by the coercive measures and now the pandemic. Animalists want a law adapted to current and future circumstances.
Sterilization is the best way to avoid overpopulation of animals
-What does the Social Responsibility of Misión Nevado consist of in the sterilization days?
-Social responsibility is nothing more than a benefit that service providers of a day of veterinary care must grant to animals in the community where the day is being implemented.
For this, Misión Nevado requires some prerequisites. The main and most important is that the foundation or organization that carries out the day is duly constituted, otherwise you will not be able to place your name as responsible for the operation, since at the time of any setback there is no one who is legally responsible.
-Are there any regulations or permits to be processed by Misión Nevado in order to carry out veterinary care sessions, especially for mass sterilizations?
-It is important to remember that in traveling days, you work with lives. With dogs and cats that are loved and are part of a family, so it is necessary to grant them the greatest possible security and reliability. This is also social responsibility.
So Misión Nevado is the body responsible for authorizing these itinerant days and controlling that the supplies used there are adequate, as well as that the veterinarian is qualified.
In addition to this work, the Misión Nevado team links service providers with people or foundations that make life in the community and evaluate the most vulnerable cases to attend them for free on that day as part of social responsibility.
What remains to be specified?
During these years we have had a strong setback with respect to the overpopulation of furry animals in the street, mainly due to the coercive measures that almost totally prevented the acquisition of supplies, food and vaccines for the animals.
Between 2016 and 2017 there were many losses, but the issue of sterilization also made us very difficult, this resulted in a large overpopulation of animals in the streets. This without counting on the important migration of veterinarians to other countries.
Currently, with the economic recovery, we are strongly assuming the challenge of mass sterilizations, aware that this is the only proven method capable of ending the overpopulation of dogs and cats on the streets of our regions.
With the material means and the professionals committed, in a period of less than ten years, through a mass sterilization plan, Venezuela could control the population of animals in street situations.
-With the brain drain, where will the professionals come from to help them achieve the goal of controlling street animals?
One of the struggles that we have been able to materialize in recent years is the fact that veterinary medicine is no longer exclusive to the formation of autonomous universities, as in the past. We have a series of experimental universities such as Simón Rodríguez, Unellez, Lisandro Alvarado, among others. This step allows us to hope that we will be able to generate new generations of veterinarians who are not only trained for the production of food but also for the social protection of animals. Professionals with a high sense of consciousness who assume a care process with the premise that companion animals are a fundamental part of the family nucleus and not an object of commerce.
Under this idea we extend the invitation to those who wish to be trained, go and register at the headquarters we have in Greater Caracas, so that from the different areas we can join forces in favor of this animalist cause.
-This idea of a veterinarian with social sensitivity is not welcomed by the Federation of Veterinary Medical Associations, which questions those who collaborate in the low-cost sessions that are taken to populous communities. What is your opinion about this?
-It is unfortunate the position of some veterinary colleges in the country that believe in the power to decide who can and who does not and at what cost veterinary medicine can be practiced in the country.
From Misión Nevado our position is of support and gratitude to all those professionals who with their work not only help in the days with affordable prices to the population, but are actually doing something for those community animals, or those street animals that many times they require sterilization or any major surgery and through these activities the joint is achieved to provide health to the animal. You have to understand that most people do not have $ 200 to pay for a sterilization, which is the minimum amount that these schools established in an imposed way.
That is why I urge these gentlemen, instead of intimidating the professionals who contribute to each full day, seek to use serious proposals to avoid the migration of our veterinary health professionals. And that they stop being participants in the speculative prices of veterinary offices and clinics that only a few can afford to pay. It is time to understand that just as we are in an arduous fight so that our companion animals are just as important as any other member of the family, our goal is also that the health of our furry is a guarantee and not a possibility of a few .