Working as a vet in the UK, dealing with pampered pets and indulgent owners, it’s easy to forget how lucky we all are in this country – and how different things are for both domestic animals and their owners in other parts of the world. In the vast majority of the world, the very concept of a ‘pet’ animal is considered strange, and domestic animals such as dogs and cats play a very different role in society – and face many different challenges as a consequence. Far from the pampered life of our pooches and pusscats, animals in many countries around the world live incredibly hard lives alongside owners who often live an equally challenging existence. Looking after these animals and ensuring their lives are as comfortable as possible is a role that often falls to animal welfare charities as the very concept of private veterinary practice is as alien as the idea of a pampered pet in these places.
Like most UK vets, I have very little experience of the animal world beyond these shores. I’m aware of the broad issues that exist, but I’ve never had the chance to really understand the challenges that animals, owners and vets face in 3rd world countries – until now! A few weeks ago I was approached by a representative of the RSPCA’s International Department, who introduced me to the work of a new charity based in the African country of Malawi called the Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals or LSPCA and asked me to take on the role of patron. The LSPCA was established with the aim of improving the health and welfare of the domestic animals of Malawi, and as a consequence, improve the lives of the people of the country as well. As I’m beginning to learn, animals play a vital role in African communities. From companion dogs to goats and chickens providing invaluable sources of food, animals are vital to the people of countries such as Malawi, and by working to improve the health of these animals, the LSPCA has the potential to transform the lives of many thousands of people in this poorest of 3rd world countries.
The work the charity does is not so different in many ways from the work I do in the surgery every day – vaccinating dogs, dealing with poorly animals, and implementing preventative health measures such as parasite control in livestock – but the conditions in which the volunteer vets and support staff are working are as far removed as possible from the comfortable surroundings of my Oxfordshire surgery. The charity runs clinics in local communities, and the response has been overwhelming so far, with an average of 70 dogs turning up at each event (which is twice the number I’d see in a day in my surgery!) The vets deal with all sorts of cases, from preventative measures such as vital rabies vaccinations, to ill and injured animals, and are working in the most challenging conditions with very basic equipment.
My role as patron of the society is to help raise the profile of the society, so they can bring in more funds which will go directly to helping animals – and people – in Malawi. One of the first parts of this involved doing some filming with the RSPCA filming crew for their website, and they came up to my surgery last week to film the first part of this. The next stage will be a trip out to Malawi to see the work of the LSPCA first hand, and to be involved in some more filming for various TV and website programs that will hopefully really help the society built its profile. I feel really honoured to be asked to take on the position as patron, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about their work, and hopefully doing as much as possible to help such a worthwhile cause.
If you’d like to find out more about the work of the LSPCA, visit the society’s website at http://www.lilongwespca.org/