Leading up to the April 25, 2015 earthquake, Street Dog Care (SDC) had been planning several campaigns including rabies vaccinations for the street dogs in the Boudha area. The plan was to vaccinate 1000 dogs and photo id them to catalogue which dogs had been vaccinated. The campaign faced a significant challenge however, as halfway through the vaccinations the earthquake struck causing immense hurdles for the team.
It was soon to be lunch-time on Saturday, April 25th when the first earthquake occurred. SDC staff and volunteer groups were carrying out their street dog vaccination. The aim was to reach 500 dogs during that weekend, and 500 the next weekend so as to fulfill their goal of 1000 vaccinated dogs in the Boudha area. Half way through, they were stopped by a display of nature’s force so strong that Kathmandu is no longer the same city as before. Luckily their teams were out in the streets when the groundfirst started shaking. Then came long waiting times, full of fear and uncertainty while bearing the many aftershocks. The team went together with dogs to fields or other safe places, away from buildings and walls that threatened to collapse. Nobody knew yet what was really going on.
As the afternoon came, the Street Dog Care teams met at the dog center and they could see, to their relief, that everybody was safe. Arturo (one of their center dogs) was found by volunteer Laura, while her team continued on with the rabies vaccination after the first shock. He had almost run 4 km towards the Bagmati River. He returned with them by taxi and was safe with them, sharing a tent with Maya, their cook. Luckily for Arturo, Laura was there to recognize and help him… otherwise he might have been too far to return, running away scared and confused as he was. Once they were back, they were happy to see that the SDC house was still standing. No one had been harmed; they all felt fortunate to have survived.
During later aftershocks a wall in the quarantine area of the SDC center broke down, but no dog or human got hurt. The clinic and several walls have significant cracks, and they fear the wall might fall in the main area, and the cement floor is broken. Despite the damage to this one building, damages are minor compared to what happened in downtown Kathmandu or in the villages.
Around the Stupa people have set up tents to sleep in: dogs such as Oscar, Punte and Lute are sharing that encampment with the people who have lost their houses or that are still scared to return.During the nights, many people gathered to sleep at the dog center or in the nearby fields’ for safety. For the dogs, they were able to provide enough food and water for a couple of days. There was initially no power and they had problems communicating. Given the dramatic proportion of the earthquake, they know they were very lucky people to be alive and camping outside with our loved ones.
Carrying out the vaccination campaign
The plan was to vaccinate 1000 dogs over two weekends while they remained in the street where they were found, as that is considered the dogs’ natural residences. This way no dogs were removed from their territory, ensuring they reduced the likelihood of stress. As the team began their work, the dogs generally received us kindly; and gentle, humane means of capture were used on those dogs that were more fearful of people.Each vaccinated dog was to be marked and photographed.
The first weekend went quite well and the team managed to vaccinate 500 dogs total. It was during the second planned weekend of the mass vaccination when the big earthquake occurred on Saturday, April 25th. While the goal was to reach the remaining 500 dogs the teams could not, as the vaccines were eventually spoiled due to a lack of power that keeps the refrigeration running and the vaccinations safe.
Despite this set back they are happy with the campaign results. After the big earthquake it was very hot, which made conditions challenging.With the chaos and break down in communication, it was a very difficult time for the team, the local people and animals in the valley.Reaching approximately 80 percent of the region’s dog population,Street Dog Care (SDC) through the generous support of Shenpen and C.H.A.N.C.E for NEPAL (UK), was successful in vaccinating a total of 808 dogs in and around the Boudha area. To get the job done it took four teams of volunteers and four veterinarians spread out through the network of main roads and side roads. The area spread out from all main roads and side roads: from Mahankal Road to Chabahil, from Jorpati towards Mahankal Road/Medical College, including all side roads, from Boudha main road to Jorpati. They covered mainly the northern area of the main road, as visible in the map below.
About Street Dog Care
SDC has made Boudha’s street dogs a family. Staff and volunteers, as well as many community members, know the street dogs by name. In addition to offering medical care, SDC and community supporters ensure Boudha’s dogs maintain a good quality of life. They provide water, food, blankets, sweaters, baths, hugs, love, and other necessities ensuring the dogs are comfortable, happy, and well socialized.
Their team is comprised of a dedicated group of formal volunteers and three veterinarians including ten international tourist and nine local community members and vets. Their outdoor vaccination campaign opened an opportunity to increase community participation and support. Over the course of this program, each day Boudha residents would increasingly volunteer as well. Furthermore, working directly on the street allowed their volunteers the opportunity to engage with citizens, educating community members about compassionate and proper animal welfare treatment and rabies safety measures.All volunteers were properly trained in dog handling prior to the camp which helps reduce stress for animals while reducing likelihood of harm for either the dogs or volunteers.
To continue education of local community members even after the street campaigns were complete, volunteers distributed 2400 educational booklets to community members in particular to children. These booklets were designed by one international supporter from the United States ofAmerica and translated to Nepali by a local community volunteer. The booklets offer detailed pictures and guidelines on proper treatment of street dogs, rabies awareness, and safety measures in case of dog bite. Community members were very curious and eager to accept and read the booklets.