Volunteer stories: Dr Laura Nettleton

Laura is a Companion Animal Veterinarian at the Timau Veterinary Centre, New Zealand. She joined the SPAW clinic in Samoa in May 2024.

Laura says: “This was my fourth trip with SPAW, but my first to Samoa. I thoroughly enjoy these trips, as experiencing a different culture and aiding the local animal population is rewarding. I chose the Samoan trip because I hadn’t truly been there before (a previous visit to Samoa when my children were infants doesn’t quite count, as we never left the resort). It’s wonderful to meet new people and collaborate under sometimes challenging conditions. A bonus of these trips is the newfound ease of daily life upon returning home, enhancing appreciation for what we and our pets have in New Zealand.

“Having participated in several SPAW trips, I had some expectations, though I was uncertain about the facilities we’d encounter in Samoa. I anticipated basic amenities since we were visiting various villages, but I was sure we’d have the essentials to accomplish our tasks. Typically, the people you meet are delightful, expressing gratitude for the services we provide for their pets. I expected long working hours and fatigue, but the prospect of our beachside accommodation and evening swims was enticing.

“The SPAW clinic operated for five days across multiple villages, starting at 8am and often extending past dusk. Our team of eight managed an average of 26 surgeries daily – a remarkable feat given the lack of air conditioning and technology we’re accustomed to in Western veterinary clinics. In total, we desexed 135 animals and treated another 20 for various conditions. SPAW provides an exceptional service, offering veterinary care to animals that might otherwise go without. Volunteers and donations are vital to sustain these missions. I feel honored to be involved.”

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