Every dog is a life worth saving
Street dogs have long been part of Sri Lanka’s culture, but are often hugely misunderstood, by both locals and tourists
Tourists wrongly see the dogs as strays, sometimes taking healthy dogs off the streets, thinking they’re rescuing them. What they’re actually doing is removing them from their friends, territory and food source.
Holidaymakers often compare the lives of street dogs to the comfortable lives of their own pet dogs. The truth is that most of these dogs have never even been indoors. So, they find it incredibly distressing to suddenly be whisked away from their home and freedom. We only rehome dogs as pets when we feel it’s in their best interests.
WE ARE ONE WORLD
… and Sri Lanka’s street dogs need all the help they can get. There are LOTS of them and very few options available in terms of veterinary care. With one dog for every eight humans and rabies still classed as endemic on the island, Sri Lanka seemed an obvious place for WECare to start its journey.
It has taken us a lot of time to understand the street dog situation here in Sri Lanka and so it is not surprising that visitors apply Western ideals to the scenario. However, we know from experience that the dogs here, who have spent generations living on the streets, have a totally different set of requirements. Freedom, food, the odd cuddle and veterinary care. Most have the first three on the list, we are here to deliver on the fourth.
THE ISSUES AT PLAY
If you’ve been to Sri Lanka, you’ll know how crazy the roads are. Unsurprisingly, this results in a huge number of road traffic accidents involving dogs. Without us, many of these animals would die slow, painful deaths.
On top of this, even the smallest dog fight wounds can quickly become huge, maggot-infested affairs in this tropical climate. We’re here to nip them in the bud before they do. Skin disease, distemper, rabies and tick fever are also complaints that we encounter commonly, as well as seeing burn injuries, wild boar attacks and bomb injuries from time to time. We do see horrendous injuries that are the stuff of nightmares- we really are very much needed here in Sri Lanka.
Many Sri Lankans, especially in the rural areas, have been brought up to fear street dogs as basic education in this sector is non-existent. In a bid to protect their children from “diseased” street dogs, many parents will do anything to keep dogs away from their families and will teach the children to stay away from animals at all costs. Sadly this sometimes results in dogs being attacked, doused in noxious substances or burned with hot water.
We’re not here to judge. We’re here to try and understand and help/educate where we can.
Sri Lankan people are resilient and have dealt with a lot in recent years, including horrific natural disasters and civil war. We understand that street dog welfare hasn’t been top of their list – but going forward, we want to change this. We want to support the community in improving their animal welfare knowledge and encouraging responsible animal ownership, alongside community dog care. This will not only benefit the animals, but the human population too.
‘Sometimes people in the UK say to us, “Why should we give money to dogs in Sri Lanka?” but in my eyes, we’re one world,’ says Janey.
‘These dogs are in desperate need. As a nation of animal lovers, it would be cool for us to stand up and say, “Our dogs are pretty lucky but there are other animals suffering around the world and we’re going to do something to help them”.’