Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust takes over in Sri Lanka

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1995:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka– –The
Tsunami People/Animal Welfare Coalition on
July 26, 2005 wrapped up emergency relief
operations begun after the December 26, 2004
Indian Ocean Tsunami, rolling all remaining
assets over into the Tsunami Memorial Animal
Welfare Trust.
Coalition and Trust cofounder
Robert Blumberg arranged that ANIMAL
PEOPLEofficially sponsored the last of a six-
month series of vaccination missions by Pets V
Care mobile clinics into refugee camps and
tsunami-stricken coastal villages.

“ANIMAL PEOPLE recognized
almost immediately after the tsunami that
something of major consequence had taken
place regarding animal welfare,” Blumberg
wrote in the last Coalition update. “Within
days after the tsunami hit, A N I M A L
PEOPLE sent financial assistance to start the
Tsunami People/Animal Welfare Coalition.
This allowed us to get on the road, assessing,
treating and vaccinating. So far the Coalition
itself has vaccinated more than 14,000 animals
in the tsunami zones,” Blumberg said.
“ANIMAL PEOPLEsponsored our first trips
and now our last vaccinating trip, and is now
supporting the Tsunami Memorial Animal
Welfare Trust as it sterilizes and vaccinates in
the tsunami zones and refugee camps.”
Newly arrived in Sri Lanka when the
December 26, 2005 tsunami hit, Blumberg
brought with him animal welfare experience in
Egypt and a background in the Peace Corps,
but had never before done disaster relief.
Asking ANIMAL PEOPLE to for-
ward all relevant web addresses, Blumberg
studied disaster relief during the first few days
after the tsunami, while transportation and
communications in the coastal communities
were paralyzed. Blumberg also located animal
welfare volunteer Anusha David, who provid-
ed introductions and translation help, created
the Tsunami People-Animal Welfare Coalition
as a disaster relief umbrella, and hired the Pets
V Care mobile veterinary team.
They hit the road as soon as travel
became possible, providing food, water, and
emergency treatment to displaced and injured
animals before the major international animal
welfare organizations had even reopened their
offices after the winter holidays.
Because a rabies panic swept Sri
Lanka after thirsty dogs drank salt water and
frothed at the mouth, the Tsunami People/
Animal Welfare Coalition emphasized r a b i e s
vaccination. The ANIMAL PEOPLE contri-
butions were followed by vaccination assis-
tance from the Yudisthira/Bali Street Dog
Foundation, Noah’s Wish, Best Friends, the
World Society for the Protection of Animals,
and––three weeks later––the International
Fund for Animal Welfare. In all, more than
25,0000 dogs were vaccinated during the next
two months and fitted with red collars signify-
ing that they are rabies-free.
The vaccinations appeared to calm
fears of rabies, but with an estimated 100,000
dogs displaced, officials still wanted to cull
dogs to control the population.
Blumberg and David incorporated
the Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust
in March 2005 to expand the Coalition work
into an an energetic high-volume dog and cat
sterilization drive. The vaccination work con-
tinues as a part of the sterilization protocol.
Sterilizations began with a two-week
demonstration clinic presented by the Yudis-
thira/Bali Street Dog team for veterinarians
from both Sri Lanka and Animal Birth Control
programs in India. Achieving 175 surgeries
per week, the Trust had sterilized 4,000 ani-
mals by mid-July, when Blumberg briefly vis-
ited family back in the U.S.
The Tsunami Memorial Animal
Welfare Trust sterilization drive significantly
expands the capacity of Animal Birth Control
programs in Sri Lanka to contain the street dog
population without lethal measures.
Political pressure to kill street dogs
recently escalated with the introduction of a
draft dog licensing law which would allow
municipalities to collect unlicensed dogs and
dispose of them after only a three-day holding
period. The draft law includes numerous
financial disincentives to dissuade individuals
and nonprofit animal welfare organizations
from assisting “community dogs.”
The Save Our Friends Association in
May 2005 won a judicial verdict against a
Kandy Municipal Corporation plan to poison
street dogs, instead of cooperating with the
SOFA sterilization program.
The case originated, SOFA secre-
tary Rohini de Silva said, when the Kandy
municipal veterinarian was hired to do steril-
izations, then demanded more money than the
contracted amount despite poor performance.
Disregarding the court judgement,
the Kandy municipal dog catchers poisoned 15
dogs on June 13, de Silva alleged.
SOFA has sterilized more than 4,000
dogs and 300 cats since 2002, operating on
about 20 dogs at field clinics held every sec-
ond week, de Silva said.
[Contact the Tsunami Memorial
Animal Welfare Trust c/o 48-B, Skelton Road,
Colombo 05, Sri Lanka; < i n f o @ t s u n a m i a n i
mal.org>; <www.tsunami-animal.org>.]
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