Saving strays in Sierra Leone

Feb 17, 2010

Mark Whitfield, a British paramedic and mechanic is supplying a Sierra Leone WSPA member society with a mobile veterinary clinic

Mark Whitfield, a British paramedic and mechanic is heading for Sierra Leone with a mobile veterinary clinic that he renovated himself to save strays from a life of cruelty and neglect.

Mark, 33, has always been passionate about animal welfare. Seeing the need for better animal care in a country recovering from civil war, he turned to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and asked for our advice.

We hooked him up with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society (SLAWS), a WSPA member society led by local vet Dr. Jalloh, who works with the stray dog population in Sierra Leone.

Mark found a decommissioned mobile clinic that a UK health company no longer needed: a simple, robust vehicle containing two veterinary operating theatres. After nearly 300 hours of repairing and refurbishing, Mark had the vehicle ready to hit the road.

Freetown’s stray dog problem

WSPA has been working with the SLAWS since 1990. With WSPA’s backing and advice, Dr. Jalloh and his team have sterilized, vaccinated and de-wormed nearly 56,000 dogs.

But there is still a long way to go, and widespread poverty in Sierra Leone is causing outbreaks of preventable diseases like rabies.

Listen to a recent interview with Dr. Jalloh on BBC World Service>> about how the civil war in Sierra Leone had an unexpected side effect on the country’s dog population.

Mark Whitfield says:  “I have always loved dogs and it’s a shame they get forgotten in times of poverty and war. Dogs are running freely all over Freetown in Sierra Leone, starving and riddled with diseases. Unfortunately, they are a health hazard to the people that live alongside them, who mostly see the dogs as a nuisance.”

“When I heard about everything that the SLAWS team was doing, I felt inspired to help both the dogs and the local people.”

After Mark’s arrival in Africa
Mark flew to Sierra Leone yesterday to meet Dr. Jalloh and his team, bringing the mobile veterinary clinic which they will drive through Sierra Leone helping stray dogs wherever they can.

To control the stray dog population, dogs will be neutered, immunized, and treated for common problems like skin diseases and internal parasites.
Mark Whitfield says: “Thanks for supporting us WSPA; it's such a big project! We're really excited about it, the prospect of helping so many animals is just unbelievable!”

Next steps for Freetown

Most of the stray dogs in Africa are a result of irresponsible animal ownership and uncontrolled breeding. Huge numbers of these dogs are dying agonizing deaths from various diseases, due to the lack of veterinary facilities and poor basic health.  Other animal welfare needs come from injuries, accidents, beatings and lack of shelter.

The Freetown City Council (FCC) has agreed, in principle, to establish a municipal dog population management unit. It has also agreed to introduce a dog licensing system, compulsory vaccination and identification tags, and to support the mobile clinic in the future.

Find out more about WSPA’s work with stray dogs>>

Find out more about WSPA’s work in Sierra Leone>>

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Member society the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare treat a puppy at their clinic