Waterford AWARE Spay Day and Rabies Clinic

The Problem

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated.” My country of current residence, Swaziland, has very inadequate animal welfare. Dogs are treated as nuisances, often cruelly, impounding a cycle of misunderstanding and causing dogs to become a great threat in Swaziland. Domestic dogs are the primary vectors of rabies. In the last year, there have been two major rabies outbreaks, occurring after the government claimed to have provided free nation-wide vaccines, indicating a lack of awareness about the need to have dogs vaccinated. Poor hygiene in domestic dogs leads to many problems in households with children contracting worms, ticks, and fleas, leading to secondary problems such as tick-bite fever. The Swazi population is at great risk for exposure to rabies with 73% of the population residing in rural areas with uncontained dogs which easily and quickly spread the disease. Children are also at high risk since they are more likely to play with animals and less likely to report a dog bite. Additionally, these 73% of people live far away from any medical center and with 64% of the population surviving on under USD $1.25 per day, the high cost of rabies vaccines for themselves is not viable. In the next 10 years, this can be greatly improved by bringing vets and doctors to those in need and hosting free clinics providing rabies vaccines to dogs and sterilization to prevent more unwanted animals which place strain on the community and that through negligence, can become a threat to the community. Waterford AWARE (Animal Welfare and Rabies Education) is a student-led community service group at Waterford United World College of Southern Africa. We have already hosted dog washes and run competitions at school to raise money and collect dog food, and with a vision and adequate funds, we are very capable and eager to extend our efforts and eradicate rabies.

Plan of Action

Partnering with the Swaziland Animal Welfare Society, we would like to launch free sterilization and rabies vaccinations in Swaziland. The most adept solution to rabies and unwanted animals leading to cruelty is to make veterinary attention available to those who cannot access or afford it. We would travel into rural areas where rabies is a potential threat and bring vaccines into communities, rather than expecting people to travel far distances to take care of their animal. With funding to obtain anesthetic, sterilization clinics in different areas would reduce the numbers of unwanted puppies born without vaccinations, since rabies is most often contracted by dogs between 2-8 months of age. While dog owners wait for their animals to recover from anesthesia, we can show powerpoint presentations about the dangers of rabies. Providing meals and making the event a pleasant one for dog owners will help word spread about the benefits of bringing their dogs to the clinic, thus transforming the mentality of having aggressive, cruelly-treated and dangerous animals into having well-kept, healthy dogs which can be an asset to a household rather than a rabies threat. The short term goals of the project would be firstly to educate communities about the real threat of rabies, as 78% of all rabies cases are caused by domestic dogs. With proper awareness, we could then proceed to distribute rabies injections to communities. The spay clinics would be large, weekend-long events happening at least twice a year and ideally every two months in partnership with the veterinary association of Swaziland. Long-term goals would be the eradication of rabies in Swaziland and an overall improvement in animal welfare, contributing to safer communities. I anticipate difficulties in reaching rural areas in need, but with adequate funding and transportation this can be possible.

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