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Helping dogs and communities in the Philippines

Oct 21, 2013

WSPA

During World Rabies Day this year, on September 28, our team was in the Philippines working with our local partners to stop the needless the killing of dogs and instead deliver mass dog vaccinations as part of our Collars Not Cruelty campaign.

Nicola Perez, WSPA's Asia Pacific Communications Manager joined Dr Dan Ventura Jr. in Cainta in Manila. In the update below, read her first-hand account of how we are helping to protect dogs, and the communities they live in:

"On the eve of World Rabies Day, I arrived in Metro Manila in the Philippines. Here working with our local partners, we were offering dog vaccinations as well as free dog registration and de-sexing to celebrate World Rabies Day.

The first thing that hits me, like in many Asian countries, is that in Manila much of life happens on the street. In this hot and humid highly populated city people are everywhere, and amongst them I instantly spot dogs. Not huge numbers like I expected, but dogs are everywhere. Thankfully the majority look relatively well fed and in good health.

On day one we head to a local barangay in Cainta, Manila. I soon discover that Manila is made up on dozens of barangays, these are small villages within a city, some gated for wealthier communities and others far less salubrious, but all with a distinct character.

Our first point of call is a relatively poor barangay where a free clinic has been set up for local people to have their dogs vaccinated against rabies. Over the next few hours in the baking heat we meet dozens of dogs and their owners. The sheer variety of dogs is the first surprise, we see dachshunds to rottweilers to poodles and many, many cross breeds in between.

The other thing that really strikes me is the evident connection between people and their dogs. As we meet local people cradling their dogs as they are vaccinated, each of them is eager to tell us proudly about their dogs, the role they play in their family, and just how important free rabies vaccination is to them.

I speak to Ian who has come along with his two young sons and three dogs; a four month old dachshund, 8 year old Rottweiler and timid cross breed named Bam Bam. Ian tells me; “I need my dogs protected to keep my family safe”, as the two young boys run off with their dachshund R2 at their heels, I can clearly see just how important our work is to these people.

On World Rabies Day itself we set off at the crack of dawn to head to the People’s Center in Cainta. Here local dignitaries, dog owners and school children have gathered to take part in World Rabies Day celebrations: including a dog parade and show, and free clinics, manned by dozens of volunteers, offering rabies vaccination, registration and de-sexing.

During the morning I see hundreds of dogs being vaccinated. Once again the compassion shown by Filipino people towards their dogs, and their gratitude for the opportunity to vaccinate their dogs for free when the cost of vaccination is equivalent to feeding a family for a day, is truly moving.

As well as vaccinations, a free clinic has been set up to neuter and spay local dogs. Seeing a roomful of tables, each with a sedated dog being operated on, is a sight I will never forget.

Watching the local volunteer veterinarians work in perfect synergy to safely de-sex dogs, an operation that is way out of many local people’s budget, but essential to humanely manage the dog population, is an awe inspiring sight.

From speaking to local school children about rabies and responsible pet ownership to hearing from the local Mayor about his commitment to animal welfare; from seeing the joy on owners faces when they are reunited with their dogs after they have recovered from being de-sexed, to dogs and people walking away from our free clinics protected from rabies - this is a truly exceptional day.

On our third and final day in the Philippines we take to the road to meet local people and their dogs in their own homes and on the street of Manila. First stop is Apple Village in Cainta, a chaotic and colourful barangay with a busy (and smelly) Sunday market with children and dogs everywhere.

Here we meet Reynaldo who has experienced the horrors of rabies first hand. Reynaldo’s 56 year old brother in law died of rabies after being bitten by an infected dog. He told us the horrors of seeing his brother in law descending into madness and dying within three days of being bitten. His nephew had also at one point been bitten and gone through painful and expensive post exposure treatment.

Despite all this Reynaldo proudly introduces us to his dogs Princess and One-One, telling us: “We are not rich people in Manila, but dogs are our friends and companions and protect us. If you have pets you must have them vaccinated, free vaccination keeps our dogs safe and protects the people we love”.

Throughout the day we meet many more truly inspiring Filipino people; an elderly grandmother terrified of dogs until she heard of our vaccination work, a mother who had struggled to pay for expensive post exposure treatment after two of her children had been bitten and was so grateful for rabies vaccinations being offered in her area.

And, everywhere there are dogs, they are just part of life here: hanging out with children, sleeping in the shade, wandering the streets, and I’m so excited to spot a number are wearing their red collars to show they are vaccinated and protected from rabies.

It has been an immensely rewarding experience meeting the people of Manila and their dogs.

Seeing the bond between people and their dogs at the clinics, in their homes and on the streets, and hearing first-hand the immeasurable impact that free rabies vaccination, and the awareness that people have about how important it is protect their dogs and families against this real and frightening disease, really shows how together we are moving the world to protect animals."

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