An exclusive interview with a dog charity in Nepal our community helped
Hi dog lovers,
This is Alicia and I am so happy to be managing our partnership with the B1G1 program and share with you this update and interview with the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART), the cause we supported in the month of May.
HART is a registered charity in the UK that helps homeless, helpless and abused animals in Nepal.
This very poor country has gone through extended periods of political instability. Sadly, animal welfare appears to be a low priority in Nepal. HART was established in 2010 to reduce animal suffering throughout the country, with bases in Pokhara and Bharatpur and outreach programs in 10 other cities and towns.
The term “street dogs” is widely used to describe the animals seen in many developing countries. Street dog numbers have traditionally been controlled with strychnine poisoning that is carried out by local authorities.
Thankfully, HART has been able to end the culling of street dogs in the communities they work in. They neuter and spay street dogs, feed and treat the ill ones and teach local communities how to look after and respect the animals.
On your behalf, we have provided 145 sets of medical tools and 145 dogs with meals and medical care to the dogs of Nepal.
To give you some insight into the challenges and successes of what HART is doing in Nepal, I would like to share my interview with the organization’s co-founder Barbara Webb.
1. How did you first become involved with HART and what made you choose this organization over something that is closer to home?
My partner, Jim Pearson, and I have been visiting Nepal since 1998. When we sold our businesses, we decided that we'd like to help the suffering animals that we'd seen as visitors.
Many people focus on making things better for disadvantaged people, but there is little help for animals. We worked with a few welfare organizations established in Kathmandu to begin with, but then realized that there was no help for animals outside of the capital. So we set up HART with our co-founder Khageshwaar Sharma.
2. In a country like Nepal, with a culture quite different from the UK, how do you connect with the community to establish trust and understanding?
Being a part of the local community is essential to HART as we do not run a sanctuary and have to persuade the local people to take care of their own animals. We worked hard at establishing a cooperative attitude with the DLSO, the District Livestock Services Office, in both our bases, who allowed us to build our clinics and provide continuous animal care locally. DLSO veterinarians deal primarily with livestock and routinely refer cats and dogs to HART.
3. Besides fundraising, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Our major challenge is in helping to speed up the change in attitudes towards animals. Many people still do not regard animals as sentient and treat them with cruelty and carelessness. This is not to say that there are not some dedicated animal lovers.
Other challenges are more practical. Nepal suffers from an underdeveloped infrastructure, so roads are poor, power outages are common and facilities are lacking. There are also frequent strikes, which disrupt normal functioning.
4. Dr. Dobias Natural Healing recently chose HART (through B1G1) as our monthly project to support. How would you encourage the dog lovers in our community to get involved locally or further afield?
HART was delighted to be supported by Dr. Dobias Natural Healing and we'd like to thank everyone involved in making this happen. We have a continuous shortage of leashes, collars and dog harnesses and welcome any donations. We also need flea and tick treatments.
We're always looking out for fundraisers and I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to help.
5. HART’s programs include dog population census, community surveys, public awareness and school education as well as sterilizations, rescues and necessary treatments. How did you establish this and are there other aspects you would like to include in future?
We established the current programs after observing what other animal welfare groups were doing in other developing countries worldwide. All the programs are geared towards creating a healthy, happy population of street animals that are respected and enjoyed by the communities in which they live.
Our ambition at the moment is to expand the schools program, which was put on hold because of the earthquake last year. We aim to hire a staff member who's role is solely to educate children and spread awareness of animal sentience.
6. Compared to countries like the UK, Canada and the USA, is it common for the people of Nepal to have dogs as pets and how does that tie into the street dog population problem?
The pet owning situation is complicated. Wealthy individuals often own pedigree dogs. These can be well treated or simply regarded as toys and thrown out if they become ill. Other people take in street dogs and again their fate can be good or bad. Some individuals feed and care for street dogs, without confining them. At the bottom of the heap are animals who are new to the area and are what we'd call strays. If they can find enough food they'll stay, if not they'll move on and either find territory or starve.
7. Are most of the staff that care for the dogs paid or volunteers within the HART organization?
HART has 13 paid Nepali staff. These are supplemented by volunteer vets and vet nurses from developed countries. Unlike most larger NGOs there are no overheads or costs associated with the charity administration.
Thank you Barbara for giving our community a chance to understand more about HART and how our dog loving community can help. The kindness, generosity and dedication of the staff and volunteers of animal rescue organizations is a beautiful thing to see.
“Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible” ~ Dalai Lama.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM