In Cambodia, the suffering of dogs and cats is immense. There are several problems:
- little veterinary capacity,
- unwanted animals are dumped at Buddhist pagodas,
- dog transmitted rabies is a risk for humans
- and a rampant dog and cat meat trade
FOUR PAWS has teamed up with local charity, Animal Rescue Cambodia to help improve the dire situation for stray cats and dogs in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Despite being known for its magical temples and exotic cuisine, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia lacking any type of animal welfare legislation protecting companion animals. Rabies is also a significant threat in the country, killing over 800 people a year.
Suffering at Buddhist Pagodas
There is a common misconception that unwanted animals can be abandoned at Buddhist temples (called pagodas in Cambodia) because they will be cared for by the monks. While animals may be provided with a bit of rice and leftover scraps, most die from malnutrition and disease. Unwanted kittens are frequently born into a miserable life at the pagodas. Much of this suffering could be prevented through simple education, as most local people just don’t know how to provide care for these animals.
Update October 2018
Over the past few months, several key staff were recruited, the first of which was a full-time veterinarian Dr. Susana Santos, who started at the end of July. Her role is to provide medical and surgical services to rescued animals and provide desperately needed training for young Khmer veterinarians. The program also staffed a local, Khmer Outreach Coordinator, Kimsan Sann, in September 2018. Kimsan Sann's is key to the program, serving as a liaison to the community by communicating with monks, nuns, and animal caregivers in the pagodas to educate them on how to provide better animal care. Critical supplies and equipment necessary for the project have been secured, including an electric tuk-tuk to provide transport services for rescued animals.
With the outreach coordinator on board, we have developed a systematic method of assessing animal welfare at the various project pagodas. This survey is currently being used to estimate the numbers of animals, caretaker attitudes, and craft our educational program and messaging.
Currently, the veterinary team has already teamed up with several local pagodas to organise spay/neuter and vaccinated services, educational workshops, and medical care. The program is also offering free spay and neuter services for owners who can’t otherwise afford veterinary services for their pets.
Cambodia’s Thriving Dog and Cat Meat Trade
Driven by poverty and the belief that dog meat has medicinal properties, the dog and cat meat trade is rampant throughout the country. Dogs and cats living at pagodas are frequently targeted for the trade, which is brutal and the suffering involved in it is unimaginable. Stolen animals, many of them former pets, are trafficked in cages or sacks in which they are killed, often by drowning. Dog and cat meat is sold at roadside stalls under the name ‘special meat’. It’s increasing in popularity throughout Cambodia, particularly among tourists visiting the country. The dog meat trade is extremely dangerous to public health, given the high prevalence of rabies in the country. Read more about The Dog and Cat Meat Trade here.
Building Community Capacity
Through partnership, FOUR PAWS is all about building the capacity of communities to address animal welfare issues themselves. The program provides desperately needed rescue, treatment, and sterilisation services to prevent the unnecessary suffering of vulnerable pagoda animals. Community engagement is also a key component, to improve care of these pagoda animals while also striving to reduce the dumping of animals in the first place. A training program will be developed to empower monks, nuns, and local caregivers at project pagodas to provide better animal care. Through effective procedures such as spay/neuter and community education, we hope to reduce the number of animals falling victim to the horrific dog meat trade.