Africa faces difficult hurdles with regard to animal welfare. Given the extreme social and economic hardships experienced by many, concern and care for animals both domestic and wild often come second to meeting people’s basic needs. Across the continent, canine populations are typically free-roaming, and humane animal management is a rarity. In most communities, though individuals may claim ownership of an animal, the definition of “ownership” can be quite vague. It is frequently limited to the occasional feeding of strays as a compassionate gesture. Unfortunately, this kindness contributes to street dog population growth. The concept of animal sterilization is still foreign in most regions, with access to veterinarians and humane education being minimal or nonexistent.
What we’re doing
HSI is working to address these challenges in a variety of ways, from offering clinical veterinary workshops, to public outreach and humane education. Training enables veterinarians to improve their own knowledge of surgical spay/neuter methods as well as pass on their new-found skills to others. This gives them a sense of pride, and an incentive to spread the concept of sterilization as the best solution to overpopulation instead of shooting and poisoning as methods of eradication. Workshops we have offered in Ethiopia and Cairo have proven this a successful way of getting local veterinarians involved and personally invested. To further advance our efforts, we have also arranged internships in the United States for vets from Cameroon, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt.
A multi-pronged approach
In addition to promoting sterilization, our efforts include mass vaccination and de-worming initiatives, as these components are of vital importance as well. Local groups in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Rwanda—countries facing high incidence of rabies transmission from dogs—are working with us to address this particular concern. Rabies poses only one of a broad array of public health risks seen in unchecked street dog populations.