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A WSPA-funded programme created to manage Colombo’s large stray dog population was officially launched in a participating community yesterday, to run for the next five years.
Member society Blue Paw Trust (BPT) and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) have been delivering and leading the programme – which also works to prevent cases of rabies – in Sri Lanka’s largest city since mid-2007.
At the launch, Mr Charles, a community representative, said “This project has resulted in people taking more responsibility for their dogs… We really appreciate the animal care and welfare aspect. We are willing to volunteer our help in the future.”
A year ago, it was common to see dogs foraging in rubbish; they carried diseases including mange, distemper and rabies. Dog bites – particularly of children – occurred frequently, resulting in expensive and uncomfortable treatment. The animal welfare need was clear.
The pilot stage of the programme has yielded amazing results, for animals and people. Two particularly impressive areas are:
Education Thousands of school children, as well as the wider community, have received humane education, focusing on preventing bites and rabies and Responsible Pet Ownership. This is strategically important in Colombo, where up to 50% of the estimated 3,500 stray dogs are thought to be owned but roaming.
Mobile clinics Dog owners and communities in low income areas were encouraged to bring dogs to the two mobile clinics, resulting in 1,300 free sterilizations and 2,000 free vaccinations, carried out with an emphasis on good welfare and strategic effect.
MOU signatories Dr Elerumperna, Dr Nalinika Obeysekere and Dr Kate Blaszak (of WSPA) in front of the mobile clinic
The programme, which also includes population surveys and future improvements to the registration system, provides long-term solutions for managing Colombo’s stray dog population. Dr Kate Blaszak, Veterinary Programmes Manager for WSPA Asia, said “This comprehensive programme is in early stages but has enormous potential, not only for Sri Lanka, but as a humane, sustainable model for the Asia region.”
Importantly, inhumane culling has ceased and improvements have been made at the CMC pound and in their dog handling practices. At the launch, the CMC’s Chief Veterinarian welcomed the programme: “Now we have a humane model for dealing with a historically ongoing problem.”
WSPA, BPT and CMC currently share decision-making, implementation and evaluation responsibilities for the programme. This close participation was cemented by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) yesterday, agreeing to joint responsibility for operational staff, technical expertise and the necessary infrastructure.
In several years’ time, WSPA’s planned exit strategy will leave the CMC – who now know humane solutions work – responsible for the continued maintenance of the programme, with BPT involvement as appropriate.