Dr Janey Lowe

One vet, three million street dogs to treat

OUR BEGINNINGS

It all began in 2014 with a backpacking trip to Sri Lanka, where Janey Lowes fell in love with Sri Lanka and their abundance of community dogs. With approximately 3 million street dogs, she was also horrified to see the state of so many of the Island’s dogs, all without access to veterinary care.

As a vet, and over 5,000 miles from home with no equipment or supplies, completely unable to help. She contacted local vets but it was difficult finding someone who had the facilities needed to treat some of the more severe issues. In her mid-twenties and only 3 years qualified, she was determined to make a change.

Now back in the UK, Janey sought advice from her boss, Nick Myerscough, expecting her ideas to be laughed off as crazy. However, she was stunned when Westway Veterinary Group donated £10,000 to help her move to Sri Lanka and set up a charity. They shared the belief that we have a responsibility as vets to ensure that every animal, regardless of borders or geographical location, deserves access to high standard veterinary care.

WECare Worldwide was born

 

Moving to Sri Lanka in October 2014, Janey had the intention of only taking a one year sabbatical (!), aiming to neutering and vaccinating as many dogs as possible. She saw this as the only way to address the bigger picture of over population and limited resources. She could never have predicted the sheer number and severity of illnesses and injuries she was about to witness, in a canine population that had minimal access to veterinary care.

So, instead of just carrying out CNVR (catch-neuter-vaccinate-release) programmes as first intended, Janey decided she must fulfill her duty of care as a vet and somehow find a way to treat the sick animals too.

Janey then met her lifelines – Malaka, Chaminda and Dr. Nuwan. The team of four then worked their socks off to not only treat any animals in need, but to spread the word about WECare and ensure we were well received into the communities in which we were working (and living). Find out more about our education programmes.

Initially, dogs were treated on the side of the road or in Janey’s home in Talalla, when absolutely necessary. However, by January 2016, Janey’s house was full to bursting, and she realised she needed a different base. Renting on old primary school in a nearby village with a secure garden for recovering dogs to play in, Janey had found her (very rustic) WECare hospital.

Janey also spent her time working alongside some great Sri Lankan vets to carry out multiple neutering and vaccination programmes in the community. 735 dogs were neutered in the first year, as well as 956 dogs vaccinated and 202 treated for other ailments.

With the help of a growing team of local and UK volunteers, and the support of lots of friends, family and kind sponsors, WECare treated 1000s of dogs in 2016. However, with money extremely tight, financial worries were always at the back of Janey’s mind.

Inside Out on BBC One

As feared, come January 2017, money had run out. Just as Janey was at the point of giving up, WECare was featured in a BBC documentary. It was an absolute lifeline. Donations surged, allowing her to slowly build the clinic she and her team of local and international staff work from today. It’s currently the best equipped veterinary hospital on the island outside of Colombo, but we’re always looking to improve.

Our clinic is absolutely vital as we are one of only two veterinary hospitals with inpatient facilities outside of Colombo – we cannot thank all of our supporters enough for making this dream a reality. The issue now is keeping it going! We’re still a tiny charity and running costs are high – every penny can literally be the difference between life and death.

Channel 5's New Lives in the Wild with Ben Fogle

In 2019 we had another big break when we were featured on Channel 5’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ with Ben Fogle. We can’t thank Ben enough for his continued support.  We were floored by the response, gaining thousands of new followers overnight. For years, we’d been dreaming of having an X-ray and were stunned when someone donated one after the show. She doesn’t like to admit it but Janey cried when that arrived. It was a special day.

Janey decided to document all the special (and not so special) days by penning her own book, detailing the whole adventure from start to.. well… now. To find out exactly how it all came about- all the joy, heartbreak, grief- then head over to buy ‘Janey The Vet’ here.

 

And the story doesn’t end there…

Fast forward to 2020 and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, having lost half our team almost overnight when some of our international staff had to make the heartbreaking decision to fly home. We’re working all hours of the day, running on skeleton staff but we’re happy to be here serving the community and hope you can get behind us. From wherever you are in the world.

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