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Vets Beyond Borders - My Trip to India

Late last year I spent a couple of weeks doing some volunteer work at a veterinary clinic in the state of Sikkim, in the far north of India, right up in the foothills of the Himalayas. The clinic, called SARAH (Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health) was set up a few years ago by the Australian veterinary charity, Vets Beyond Borders. It is now partially funded by the Sikkim State Government and has some full-time local Indian staff, but it still needs extra help. VBB now runs regular training courses at SARAH for Indian vets and vet nurses, to improve their skills, especially in the area of surgery. That's what I was there for. There were two other Aussie vets there at the same time and between us we gave two weeks of lectures and surgical pracs. In addition, we helped out in the clinic, treating all sorts of cases, mainly dogs. These were both pet dogs and strays (they call them street dogs) which people brought in. Basic treatment is provided free of charge, although pet owners are asked to make a donation. The facilities at the clinic are pretty rudimentary by Australian standards but the service they provide is excellent.

Apart from providing basic veterinary care, SARAH's other function is to help control the street dog population in the local area. They do this by catching street dogs, bringing them in for desexing and then releasing them again in the same area where they came from. At the same time the dogs are vaccinated for rabies, distemper and parvovirus. They are also treated for worms and any other conditions that they may have, such as mange, which is common. The rabies vaccination is particularly important. It is estimated that every year more than 25,000 people in India die of rabies. The most common means of infection is from dog bites and many of the victims are children. Rabies is a dreadful disease. It is 100% fatal and you die a slow and painful death. Since the SARAH program started in Sikkim about six or seven years ago, the incidence of rabies in the local human population has fallen by about 90%. So you can see that Vets Beyond Borders are making a real contribution to human health as well as animal health in India.

The street dogs are a fact of life in India. You see them everywhere. Even though they are a constant source of disease to the people, they are not only tolerated but they are regarded as part of life. Many of them are in shocking health, as you can imagine. There have been attempts in the past to reduce the numbers by shooting or impounding the dogs but these programs have met with a lot of opposition. The people believe the dogs have just as much right to life as we do. The desexing programs, such as the one at SARAH, are much more popular, especially when the people see the benefits to their own health when the dogs are given some basic veterinary treatment.

The SARAH clinic has become a model for providing care for the street dogs of India and Vets Beyond Borders has been setting up further clinics in other parts of India and South East Asia to continue the good work.

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Categories: Ourimbah Vet BlogNumber of views: 3556

Tags: VetsTripIndia

Dr Chris Rayson

Dr Chris RaysonDr Chris Rayson

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