At the moment our human world is based on the suffering and destruction of millions of non-humans. To perceive this and to do something to change it in personal and public ways is to undergo a change of perception akin to a religious conversion. Nothing can ever be seen in quite the same way again because once you have admitted the terror and pain of other species you will, unless you resist conversion, be always aware of the endless permutations of suffering that support our society. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Due to poverty, a lack of knowledge and awareness, and the cultural mores of the people, most dogs in Ethiopia are homeless, malnourished, sick, and, in some cases, abused. In Addis Ababa alone there are approximately 200,00 to 250,000 homeless dogs that roam free. These animals have no care and must fend for themselves. Because of the severe lack of available veterinary care, these animals are without benefit of vaccinations or medical treatment of any kind and are responsible for over 500 cases of rabies annually in Addis Ababa alone.
There is also the very real danger these dogs could spread rabies to many of the endangered species and other endemic wildlife. The risk of rabies to human beings and wildlife is so high that a program designed to vaccinate, spay/neuter, and find foster and permanent homes for these homeless dogs is of paramount importance.
In July of 2007, International Fund for Africa (IFA), working with the Homeless Animal Society of Ethiopia (HAPS) rescued four dogs that had been thrown into the infamous Gido Cave and left to die of starvation and dehydration. (More details at Best Friends.) IFA subsequently petitioned the government to have the cave closed to prevent the further abandonment of dogs to a hideous death in the cave. HAPS with the financial support of the IFA had the cave closed a week later. (For information on IFA's efforts with other national and international organizations to stop a government program to euthanize stray dogs with strychnine in preparation for the celebration of the millennium in Ethiopia.
Because of a lack of funding, HAPS was unable to keep the rescued dogs and find suitable homes for them. In order to prevent the dogs from being euthanized and to call attention to the plight of homeless animals in Ethiopia and, indeed, throughout Africa, IFA stepped in and brought them to the United States for Adoption. Rescued Dogs update IFA also lent support to HAPS' educational program. (After May 1, 2008, anyone wishing to donate to HAPS may contact the organization through its web site at Homeless Animal Society of Ethiopia.)
On a subsequent trip to Ethiopia with Gregory Castle, a founding partner of Best Friends Animal Society, the president of IFA, representatives of HAPS, and Mr. Castle met with officials responsible for animal care including the director and staff veterinarians of the Urban Agricultural Department and representatives of the Veterinary Association. Mr. Castle toured the HAPS facilities and various government animal clinics. Based on those meetings and the tours of facilities, Best Friends agreed to provide funding through the IFA for a government vaccination and spay/neuter program. This is in addition to the generous funding given by HSI and IFA.
The International Fund for Africa is currently working with non-governmental organizations as well as the ministry of agriculture in hopes to reduce the incidence of rabies and the needless suffering of homeless dogs and is working on supporting the expansion of programs and services to
- Spay/neuter homeless dogs
- Provide vaccinations for Rabies, Parvovirus, etc.
- Educate the public on how to better care for dogs
- Promote foster care and adoption programs
- Create additional animal clinics and sanctuaries in the city
- Replicate the program in cities throughout Ethiopia
In October of 2008, Dr Anteneh Roba and Rich Cook, Best Friends Rapid Response Manager traveled to Ethiopia to meet with government officials to move this ambitious project forward. Since the meeting late last spring, there was a real fear that the City Government of Addis Ababa would resort to killing the dogs because they are such a massive problem and the spread of rabies is a real danger.
Instead, they were met with great enthusiasm from the dozen or so representatives of the state and city government with whom they met including members of the Trade and Industry Development Bureau of Addis Ababa, the Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Institute of Health (which deals with rabies cases), the Ministers of Agriculture and Sanitation, the city's head of urban development, the Chief of Veterinary Service, and Dr. Tesfaye, who is the liaison for the coalition of The International Fund for Africa, Best Friends and Humane Society International in Addis Ababa.
Dr. Roba gave a presentation in which the success of similar spay/neuter/vaccination programs in the United States and India was demonstrated as the only route to go to solve the dog overpopulation problem. City officials were basically in agreement, and a number of the participants expressed their own personal opposition to the killing of dogs. Mr. Fitsum Arega, head of the Trade and Industry Bureau of Addis Ababa, signed the agreement with International Fund for Africa, Best Friends Animal Protection Society, and Humane Society International, on behalf of the city to launch the spay/neuter/vaccination program.
In March 2009, Dr. Anteneh Roba, founding President of the International Fund for Africa, led a team of 4 veterinarians 3 dog catchers and 4 additional personnel from the Humane Society International and Best Friends Animal Society to Addis Ababa for a two-week training program whose goal was to train 8 to 10 Ethiopian Veterinarians and 10 to 15 dog catchers. The goal was to train them on how to first catch stray dogs in Addis Ababa, then spay/neuter and vaccinate the animals, and then release them. This program is to run for nine months and treat 1200 dogs. The coalition (IFA, HSI and BF) supplied the surgical and medical equipment, and the city provided a newly constructed clinic for the project. A ribbon cutting ceremony and seminar chaired by Mr. Fitsum of the Trade and Industry Development Bureau of Addis Ababa was held to officially open the clinic on March 13, 2009. This ceremony was broadcast on Ethiopian National Radio and Television. That same day a four-hour seminar attended by 60 professionals was held for city vets and officials and also broadcast by the Ethiopian National Radio and Television. Encouraged by our efforts in helping to humanely improve the stray-dog problem, the city plans to build six additional animal clinics. On March 16,2009 the training program was started. The HSI and BF teams stayed for approximately two weeks and a half and half of the HSI team stayed for another week to train the Ethiopian Veterinary Doctors. The training program was a success . Four dog catchers and 6 Ethiopian Veterinary Doctors were trained and continued the project on their own after the team left.
In June 2009, Dr. Anteneh Roba returned to Addis Ababa to assess the progress of the program, visiting the clinic and meeting with the team.
He was pleased to see female Ethiopian female veterinarians performing surgery on dogs without complications. Although the number of dogs treated per day has decreased to about five, team members still believed they would approach the projected total number of dogs requiring spaying or neutering and vaccinating by the end of November.
As of December 2009, they had spayed or neutered and vaccinated nearly 800 dogs. At that time, the pilot program was concluded.
Dr. Roba also met with Fitsum Aregaye, head of the Addis Ababa Trade and Industry Bureau, the lead city official overseeing the veterinary program, Mr. Fitsum informed Dr. Roba that the city had budgeted money to perpetuate the program beyond the pilot program's completion and planned to build more veterinary clinics in the near future.
The International Fund for Africa (IFA) and the city government have also agreed to collaborate in preparing brochures to inform citizens on proper dog care: good nutrition, adequate exercise, regular veterinary checkups and vaccinations, and no chaining.
In September 2010, the IFA team, accompanied by Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, returned to Addis Ababa to revaluate the program and to see what might be done to expand the pilot project that ended in December 2009. Subsequently, Dr. Roba, Seble Nebiyeloul, and Castle met with Aregaye and the city's head of the Urban Development Bureau, head of the Health Bureau, representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture and Sanitation, and separately, Ethiopia President Girma Wolde Giorgis.
These discussions resulted in a decision to assess whether IFA, Best Friends, and HSI could devise a comprehensive multi-year plan to address the city's large number of homeless dogs and the incidence of rabies. As of mid-2011, the proposed plan is still being formulated.
A key difficulty is obtaining enough funds, considering that many of Addis Ababa's homeless dogs are injured and have diseases in addition to rabies. Until the city receives the kind of help needed to control or eliminate these problems, unfortunately, employees will continue to periodically killing dogs using strychnine.
To end this tragedy, we invite you to join IFA in improving the plight of domestic animals and homeless dogs in Ethiopia. Please make your donation today. No amount is too small. All gifts are greatly appreciated.