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A summary of our first full year working in Sri Lanka

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*** HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF OUR AMAZING SUPPORTERS ***

We would like to thank you all profusely for the support you have shown to us in our first full year working with the street dogs in Sri Lanka! What a year we have had and we would not have been able to do it without your support, in the good times and the bad! Thank you so much for your kind donations and also for your kind words at times when we really needed a boost- it can get quite challenging out here and to know that we have such amazing people behind the cause really keeps us going on the days when we are almost defeated.

We have seen some things that we never thought we would see and wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. They will never leave us.

BUT we have also seen extreme acts of kindness, love and compassion from the locals, in situations that are often alien to them but their true character always shines through. They have welcomed us with open arms and have really helped to cement our organisation within the communities.

We have seen dogs fight back from the brink and have been astounded by their resilience in the most challenging conditions imaginable. Maggot wounds, road traffic accidents, Distemper, Tick Fever, chronic skin disease- we have dealt with it all and hopefully provided these dogs with a more bearable future.

We have reached out to hundreds of local adults and children to educate them about responsible animal ownership and community dog care. The response to this has definitely been noticed, even though we feel like we are bashing our heads against a brick wall most of the time!!

We have developed relationships with hundreds of street dogs, who respond to their names, and greet you with a huge amount of affection every time you visit them. As well as carrying out their veterinary treatment, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we nurture and socialise these dogs. This is good for the animals but also creates a positive environment for the residents to live in. Malaka works extremely hard on this aspect and spends hours every day trying to make these often-abused dogs trust humans again.

On the veterinary side of things, we have treated thousands of dogs this year, neutering over 1000 and vaccinating almost 1500. We have had over 300 participants in our skin clinic and we have provided high-standard veterinary care to just under 200 animals. We are a small team, just starting out, and this year has been manic. However, as we are ever the optimists, we are looking to double all of these numbers in 2016!

We have been fortunate enough to receive the help of over 10 highly-skilled veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons when they have volunteered in their precious holiday time (trust me, it is extremely precious, when you are working 12 hour days in the hospital plus on-call through the night and often not sleeping for 96 hours at a time!). We were also lucky enough to have two veterinary nurses take unpaid leave to come and volunteer (for one month and six months), which is a huge sacrifice and something that was absolutely invaluable to the everyday running of the charity. We will be forever grateful, Amy and Becca (and please get back here soon as we are swamped without you!!).

We have a committee in the UK who work tirelessly behind the scenes, often trying to do a full-time job on top of their already manic full time jobs! The first annual charity ball was a huge success and that was down to Mandy- our fabulous UK-based veterinary surgeon, who seems to be able to find hours in the day to work in our busiest Westway hospital, organise all of the fundraising for the charity (gigs, balls- big events!), have 2 dogs, a horse and a long-suffering boyfriend (!). She is superwoman and we are so grateful for everything she has done this year.

The charity game is tough. Essentially, it is running a business to a very high standard but having no product to sell. Just asking for money and begging people to provide the skills they have worked so hard to gain, for free. Everyone who has supported us in any fashion this year can most definitely say that they have founded a charity, as there is no way we could’ve achieved any of this in our first year without caring, selfless, proactive people behind us.

And finally, a huge thank you to Westway Veterinary Group. When we approached our bosses with this crazy idea way back in 2014, they could not have been more supportive. As a group, we want to demonstrate our passion for helping animals and we are concerned that the profession is increasingly being seen in a bad light by the public, who sometimes believe that vets across the country overcharge or don’t care about their animals, only money.

We cannot stress how much we DO care (to the point of tears most weeks) and how much pride we take in providing a quality service at an affordable price. Most practices in the UK make no more than 40p from each consultation fee (usually charging around the £30 mark) despite the public perception that vets are ‘loaded’.
Our bosses at Westway are true believers in remembering the core reason that we became veterinary surgeons and are determined for us all not to become disillusioned by the business-side of things. That is why we strongly support local animal charities, such as Parrt and Brysons Animal Shelter. We also have our Westway Stray Fund, which provides veterinary care for stray animals in our region.

However, we felt that, as UK-trained veterinary surgeons and nurses, we are extremely lucky to have been able to acquire our skills and work to a high standard and we could/should be doing more to help in places around the world where people are not so lucky to be born with the world at their feet. We feel a sense of duty to share our knowledge and skills to improve the long-term outlook for animals, communities and the veterinary profession worldwide.

We all became involved in the profession because we care deeply for animals and their well-being. Everyday, we all place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to give 110% to every single patient- vets, nurses, receptionists, admin staff alike. We do this because WE CARE, and for absolutely no other reason.

Hence, we set up WECare. We will continue to care in the UK, Sri Lanka or wherever it may be for many years to come and we hope that you join us in that vain.

Thank you so very much and we wish you all an extremely happy and healthy 2016!!

– Janey

Transmissible Venereal Tumours (TVTs)

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TVT stands for transmissible venereal tumour and these are really common findings here in Sri Lanka. They are basically a cancer that is spread through sexual intercourse and, although curable in most cases, are very uncomfortable and unsightly. They can grow to incredible sizes and cause severe deformities in genatalia.
TVT’s are one of the major reasons that we neuter male dogs as well as female dogs. Government vets here focus only on neutering females, as that is what gives the quickest results with regards to reducing street dog numbers. However, it is not a long-term solution and male dogs need to be operated on too. Operating on the males not only stops their ability to reproduce but it also removes their sexual drive therefore stopping the spread of TVT’s.
A lot of owners bring their male dogs to our clinics for vaccinations but refuse to get them neutered (it makes them less ‘manly’)… until we show them the photos of TVT’s and then they can’t get them on the table quick enough!!
Dogs with TVT’s require a few doses of chemotherapy and then they are as good as new, although the tumours can return if the dog gets stressed or the immune system is compromised for another reason.
We have seen more TVT’s than usual recently and Amy has been the chemo queen providing doses to all of the affected animals! They all recovered exceptionally well and hopefully you will be just as amazed with the results as we are!