MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When disasters hit, like the earthquake in Japan or flooding in Thailand, relief organizations always spring into action to help the victims. That includes the Fargo-based nonprofit World Vets, which is focused not on helping people, but our four legged friends.

They aren’t the belongings you’d expect to take on a trip to the Dominican Republic, but for Ryan Finley every item is crucial. He’ll spend the next week helping animals as a member of World Vets.

“I saw that World Vets was doing a good thing, and, I guess, I just wanted to jump on board,” Finley said.

The international aid organization started as a hobby for founder Cathy King. She saw a need while on a trip to Mexico. Stray animals are often poisoned as a population control method. She wanted a more humane approach.

“I was a private practice veterinarian and thought this was something I’d do in my spare time,” King said.

Six years and 36 countries later, her hobby has grown to a team of 900 veterinary volunteers. Nearly every week a team is sent to a developing country to treat animals.

“It’s really an amazing experience,” King said. “Some of the things that we see on projects you would never dream of that you would see in the United States.”

Niki Larson, a World Vets volunteer veterinarian technician, said she sees a lot of emaciated animals.

“It’s sad, but I see the full picture. I see why we’re there,” she said.

Larson can only guess what she’ll encounter in the coming weeks when she heads to Belize for her third World Vets trip. Her previous trips have included everything from leg amputations to severe flea infections.

“I think it’s really rewarding,” Larson said. “It’s an adventure.”

The vet teams typically focus on education or spay/neuter projects, but they don’t shy away from difficult surgeries or disaster relief. Volunteers spent several days in Thailand when the floods hit last year. They helped some of the 60,000 stray dogs left to fend for themselves. Many were trapped on roofs of cars or had infections from breathing in the flood water.

“That was the first time I was thinking, ‘I’m actually doing something’ and it felt good,” Finley said.

Animals may be an afterthought in other parts of the world, but for those at World Vets, they are worth the effort.

“It’s heart breaking but heartwarming when you help them,” King said.

World Vets runs solely on donations. If you’d like to help or volunteer, go to its website.

Comments (4)
  1. Mark G. says:

    Last time I looked there were 10s millions of people dieing every year of starvation and easily preventable disease. How about malaria meds and condoms for everyone in Africa, before spending a dime on the worlds animals that can not be consumed. People before pets!

    1. sandra says:

      I cannot believe the comment from Mark G. What is wrong with you? You must have some serious issues with your life. Of course, we need to help people and we do. But why criticize an organization that uses donations and voltuneers to help animals. Why don’t you offer to help people in need instead of condemning people who are helping make the world a better place?

  2. Molly says:

    This has got to be the most ignorant, pathetic comment I’ve seen, Mark. This organization runs off of donations from the public. If a group of people want to collaboratively help animals they feel are in need, then more power to them. Who’s stopping you from donating and volunteering to save starving people around the world?? Get your head out of your ass and make a difference if it’s that important to you.

  3. T-REX says:

    I help People and Animals. I don’t see any problem with either! Wish I could do more. Good article. Great to see so many veterinary volunteers involved in the program. Hope more decide to act for the better of animals (which helps society) at a local and global level.