New project to protect dogs in Sierra Leone
Life is tough for dogs in Sierra Leone. The country is still recovering from two civil wars and, most recently, the Ebola virus. Death from rabies is an ever-present threat
Most people live a hand-to-mouth existence. Medical help is often unattainable and there are only four vets in the whole country.
Despite this, people generally have positive relationships with dogs – as Emily Mudoga, our companion animal campaign manager, explains.
“One of the best things about this project is seeing the way people in Sierra Leone love dogs,” Emily says. “Whether they are owned dogs or street roaming, people seem to have a harmonious bond with them like I haven’t seen anywhere else in Africa.”
With your support Emily is working with local partners and the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society to give dogs and people better lives. During September she will be helping to launch a government-backed, humane dog population management pilot project in Freetown, the country’s capital.
“The bulk of the project will focus on rabies vaccinations and basic treatments, but we will also see how many spays and neuters we can do,” says Emily.
The project will run over two weeks in three wards of one of the city’s districts. It will involve the vaccination of around 3,000 owned dogs and potentially another 3,000 free-roaming dogs.
Laying the foundations for the pilot has been rewarding, but also time consuming to ensure efficiency, Emily explains.
“It has involved a lot of ground work – the lobbying and advocacy work with the ministries of agriculture and health, Freetown city council, the police and local councillors. We are also working with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society on training so local people can run projects themselves, expand them and train others.”
Government animal health officers are being trained in dog handling, vaccination administration and record keeping. They will be running vaccination points in the two weeks of the project.
“The training has gone well,” says Emily. “They seem to have a real love for the stray dogs and are happy to handle them. In many other nations strays are seen negatively and people are frightened of them and don’t know how to behave around them.”
She explains that good communications will be key to making sure people bring their dogs along.
“Our communications plan involves television, radio and the good old-fashioned ‘town crier’ method… people going around with fog horns giving the message,” laughs Emily.
Because so many children in the communities have dogs, schools will be told about the project too.
“We know from our other work in Africa that very often it is the children who bring the dogs to vaccination points and tell the adults to do it too.”
This September pilot is just one step along the way in our work to help Sierra Leone give dogs better lives.
“This pilot will be an example the Sierra Leone government can use in developing its national rabies elimination strategy and similar projects all over the country. We will be working with the government on this until 2020,” says Emily.
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