A warm and sunny day here in Thamel, Kathmandu. Enjoying my Nepalese milk tea from my hotel balcony with a beautiful view of the mountains from afar.. Sounds peaceful however this metropolitan city is far from that. Not a day goes by without the sounds of vehicles constantly honking and countless dogs barking from dusk till dawn. In the midst of all this pollution and organized chaos (as a tourist friend describes it) you can’t take away the beauty that this exotic country has to offer outside of Kathmandu. The kindness of the Nepali people, the wide variety of delicious cuisine, the splendid views of the mountains (the land of the Himalayas) and a very rich culture and history is a reminder of why so many tourists visit Nepal.
Anyone visiting this beautiful country will no doubt recognize the overpopulation of stray animals. There’s an overabundance of stray dogs wandering the streets that have sustained injuries from vehicles or abuse from humans. They suffer from starvation and are highly susceptible to illnesses due to their living conditions. The most common zoonotic disease seen in these animals is the life threatening virus rabies and sarcoptic mange(a severe skin disease caused by a mite). This evidently poses a serious public health and safety issues for the locals and tourists. This is where the KAT (Kathmandu Animal Treatment) center steps in.
I was fortunate to join the KAT team to celebrate their 8th anniversary on May 9th. It was a day that represented hope and continued progress towards improving the lives of the Nepali street dogs. Since my arrival at the center I have had the privilege to work with wonderful volunteers and staff members who dedicate their time effortlessly to make a difference. We all have one thing in common and that is to help and provide comfort to these sick and injured dogs. Sadly, not every story has a happy ending. Thus far, empirical diagnosis is the way to go due to the very limited resources and lack of diagnostic tools the center possesses. Accurate diagnosis is very limited therefore treating appropriately is very challenging. Unfortunately, this is expected for the reason that the KAT center is a non profit organization based in a developing country.
Animal Birth Control or ABC as they call it at the KAT center is a cardinal program and has been proven to reduce the stray overpopulation of dogs in the Kathmandu region since 2006 with the staggering number of 36,000. Currently the numbers have reduced to 22,000 roaming dogs in the streets of Kathmandu alone. This is work in progress and hopefully the numbers will continue to decline as the years go by and of course providing that sufficient donations are contributed towards this very important cause. Every animal that comes through the doors of the KAT center is sterilized and vaccinated against rabies before they are released or in some cases adopted.
In just one week, we were faced with many cases of HBC’s (hit by car) at the KAT center including dogs that have laid on the side of the road with fractures for an undetermined period before a Good Samaritan (if lucky) takes the initiative to transport them to our center. Unfortunately for most of these dogs as the days go by the extent of their injuries and damage to organs could not be reversed.
During our walks in the city we encounter a considerable amount of dogs with severe cases of sarcoptic mange, if left untreated this disease can be fatal. The center is currently treating a number of dogs with this condition which requires daily treatment. Unfortunately the center does not have the capacity to take in more than 50 dogs at a time. That is a very small number considering the amount of dogs roaming the streets that require some form of medical intervention. Adoptions are always an option but this is scarce in Nepal due to cultural beliefs. Community dogs are common in Nepal as the locals feed them however most dogs are not as privileged and are seen scavenging through garbage for any food scraps.
Contrary to popular belief, most of these stray dogs are not aggressive. When approached in a gentle manner they wag their tail and seek for some attention (they roll on their backs and love to have their bellies rubbed).
So far, I have met many wonderful volunteers from all walks of life and feel blessed to be surrounded by such admirable and dedicated individuals. I have no doubt made friends for life.
That is all for now, until next time!