Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust takes over in Sri Lanka

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2005:

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 PEOPLE officially 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, Animal 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 People
sponsored 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 forward 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 provided 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 rabies vaccination. The ANIMAL
PEOPLE contributions were followed by vaccination assistance 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 signifying 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 continues as a part of the sterilization protocol.
Sterilizations began with a two-week demonstration clinic
presented by the Yudisthira/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
animals by mid-July, when Blumberg briefly visited 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 secretary Rohini de Silva said,
when the Kandy municipal veterinarian was hired to do sterilizations,
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 second
week, de Silva said.
[Contact the Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust c/o 48-B,
Skelton Road, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka; <info@tsunami-animal.org>;
<www.tsunami-animal.org>.]

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