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Sustainable Veterinarians International (SVI) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating long-term sustainable veterinary care in underserved countries by improving the level of education and training of local veterinarians, animal workers and community health.  SVI’s mission coincides with the concept of One Health, which maintains that human health, animal health and ecosystem health are inextricably linked and must be considered as parts of a whole.  Veterinarians are among the only professionals that routinely work at the interface between these three fields.


SVI provides education, training, research, and business development opportunities to local veterinarians, animal health care workers (eg, farriers), and farmers in underserved countries.  We train and educate via in-country hands on courses in the field, in the universities and in the communities. These courses have the added benefit of providing much needed veterinary services to animals in these remote communities.  

For veterinary care to be regularly available and sustainable, a veterinarian or animal worker must be able to earn a living wage in the community.  This is where SVI differs from other animal welfare groups and we spend a significant amount of time developing individual veterinarians/animal workers with more in depth and ongoing mentorship. This is done by helping set up veterinary hospitals in underserved areas, providing modern equipment and supplies, and most importantly regular and on-going mentorship to selected local veterinarians. A well trained, competent local veterinarian in turn develops trusting relationship within the community and enhances the value of animal health and welfare to the local community.  This synergistic relationship in turn provides long lasting and improved animal health and community economics.

It is these long term solutions, relationships and trust from the community which will reduce animal suffering and increase community health for generations to come.  


The veterinarians at SVI actively seek to connect with human health care workers in the communities in which we work.  Sharing of information and resources is a critical part of the mission of SVI; it makes no sense to provide advanced medical care to animals in a community if the basic medical needs of the humans are not yet being met.  Examples of shared resources could include anything from providing a network of committed professionals to these remote communities to sharing a costly diagnostic tool, such as an x-ray machine. SVI actively seeks out and works with human health care providers to increase awareness and accessibility of the these remote community's medical and dental needs. Multi-diciplinary collaboration is also key to understanding and controlling those diseases that affect both animals and humans, such as certain bacterial and insect-borne infections.  This is particularly important as new global epidemics arise. 

To dovetail with ecosystem health, SVI is committed to promoting sustainable land use. The rural poor in developing countries often have little land to scratch out their living which often leads to depletion of soil health, deforestation for crop use, and widespread malnutrition. This is reflected in the health of the people as well as the animals. SVI strives to teach and create more sustainable farming practices such as permaculture farming to local communities in order to increase soil health, decrease environmental impact, improve local income, and provide more nutritious local available food for the community.   


Many internationally-sponsored veterinary programs consist of one to two week clinics involving foreign veterinarians and veterinary students who provide direct care, such as sterilization surgeries, to a finite number of animals.  This approach has introduced modern veterinary medicine to rural developing communities and begun the long process of relationship building between different cultures. Yet this approach lacks the ability to provide ongoing and more involved veterinary care to the animals and the community for most of the year.  Providing veterinary services free of charge may not help a community recognize the value of those services, making it difficult for local veterinarians to earn a living wage.   Improving the overall level of animal health and controlling disease requires much more advanced and comprehensive skills than just vaccination or sterilization services.  The mission of SVI is to provide a foundation for sustainable, comprehensive veterinary care in underserved areas and in developing countries which relies on training and supporting local veterinarians and animal care workers.


Currently, SVI has an established network of rural communities in Nicaragua, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.  Our volunteer staff have provided veterinary services and training for the past 13 years.  Small animal veterinary college courses are established in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Field courses are primarily on-site in the various rural communities. Small animal surgeries are often performed in school classrooms that we transform into a surgery suite. Equine surgeries and medicine are typically done in the field.  More intensive or advanced training will occur on site in SVI owned and operated clinics. Currently, we have a fully functional and staffed veterinary clinic in Santa Cruz, Ometepe, Nicaragua. 

Shelley Lenz

Killdeer | Sustainable Vets International

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