U.S. Army Veterinarians Maj. Raghavan Sampathkumaran and Capt. J.R. Lund, along with veterinarian technician Sgt. Jerry Vang, prepare a dog for surgery during Pacific Partnership in Cambodia. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Jesus Uranga)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia - Pacific Partnership veterinarians and veterinary technicians provided a variety of services to the animals of Koh Rong Island, Cambodia, from June 19 to June 24, as part of this year’s mission.

Two U.S. Army veterinarians and three veterinary technicians, teamed up with Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society, a non-governmental organization, and 10 Cambodian university students from the capitol of Phnom Penh, to provide treatment and surgeries to stray and domesticated dogs to help improve the quality of life of the island’s two-legged residents, as well as to help enhance the economy of the area.

“The work the veterinarians have done on the island was good not only for the residents, but also for tourism, because it helps control disease,” said Sakip Catal, managing director for a local dive center. Catal, originally from Turkey, said that donations the local residents and businesses had been collecting would now be able to continue on the work started by Pacific Partnership.

“There are a lot of strays on the island, and we had been collecting donations to do what the military has done as a service to the community,” said Catal. “We can now put that 15,000 dollars toward a permanent animal clinic and shelter here on the island.”

Working at the request of local pet owners and businesses on the island, Pacific Partnership veterinarians completed approximately 60 surgeries, mostly spaying and neutering, treated approximately 10 sick animals, and dewormed and vaccinated an additional 35 animals. All surgery patients were also dewormed and vaccinated. The veterinarian team also used the opportunity to share what they learned from the animals with the island residents.

“We did some public health education to local villagers and business owners talking about diseases that are transmitted between animals and people,” said veterinarian U.S. Army Reserves Capt. J.R. Lund. “They were very open to the education. We had treated some animals for zoonotic parasites and helped to educate the villagers on how to avoid transmission.”

While the immediate effect of the Pacific Partnership veterinary team was to help improve life for both the animals and residents of the island, the long-term effect was shared knowledge in support of future humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery missions.

“By working with the 10 university students, we were able to increase their knowledge and skills in the case of disasters,” said Lund. “We helped with education on rabies vaccines and the importance of publicity campaigns to eradicate the disease, which can become an issue in a disaster recover mission in remote areas.”

Another long-term result to benefit the animals was interaction with a local veterinarian who agreed to do follow-up work on the island about every six months.

The Pacific Partnership veterinary team will also be providing vaccinations to cattle and water buffalos in the local areas around Sihanoukville on June 26 and June 27.

Pacific Partnership is in its ninth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.