Botswana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals completed their Africa-Based Animal Welfare Organization Grant Project, Pet Sterilization Campaign. As you'll see, this grant project was about much more than spay/neuter. It was about working with and being a part of the local community, being a community resource-not just for the immediate campaign, but for the long-term, it was about One Health, keeping animals, their humans, and the environment healthy, and it was a morale booster for BSPCA staff!
With the AKI grant, over the course of the last few months, the BSPCA held two campaigns, the first in Tlokweng and Ruretse villages and the second in Mmokolodi village. Originally, BSPCA had intended to hold only one campaign, in Tlokweng, 13 km from the BSPCA shelter, but because they received donations of some supplies, the AKI funds went further than planned.
The BSPCA used the same methodology at both locations: door-to-door sensitization and registration of pets (pet owners were educated on basic pet care and the importance of animal welfare and were given information on the benefits as well as the risks involved in sterilization); invitations sent to vets in the private and public sectors requesting assistance during the sterilization campaign; coordinated with Village Development Committees to identify appropriate locations for the campaigns; conducted a public awareness campaign (Kenneth Disthweu, BSPCA National Manager, did interviews on national radio (RB1, RB2, Yarona) and television stations (BTV 1and BTV 2) to spread awareness of the campaign and general animal welfare, which reached a large part of the population since these are the most popular stations in Botswana); pre-campaign dipping to make sure dogs were healthy when they arrived for s/n surgery; vaccinations, de-worming, and additional dipping, as needed.
In October, in Tlokweng and Ruretse villages, the BSPCA:
Visited 150 homes during the sensitization phase.
Dipped 80 dogs during the pre-campaign phase.
Attended to a total of 140 cats and dogs during the campaign: 103 dogs and cats during the sterilization campaign on October 8 and 9; 17 dogs and cats from Ruretse village on October 11, 18, and 19; and 20 dogs on October 20 and 21 for a total of 131 sterilizations and 9 euthanasias due to advanced transmissable venereal tumor (TVT). All sterilized dogs were also dipped, vaccinated, de-wormed.
The 131 sterilized dogs and cats went home with a bag of food.
Pictures from the October campaign:
At the owners' consent the nine dogs with TVT were euthanized. To treat TVT, each dog would need 4-6 chemotherapy injections, beyond what the BSPCA can afford to treat. The BSPCA campaign focused on poor families, so they were unable to afford the care on their own. Without treatment the tumors would continue to grow and get infected, and the dogs would eventually die suffering. Humane euthanasia was the kindest option. During the campaigns, dogs with minor wounds and ailments were treated.
The BSPCA stuck to their focus-treating the dogs and cats of poor families. During the October campaign, six people were turned away: two were breeders, two could clearly afford private vet care as they had very expensive cars and also had vaccination cards from their vets, and two only wanted to get their dogs vaccinated but did not want to have their dogs sterilized.
In November, in Mmokolodi village, the BSPCA:
Visited 66 homes during the sensitization phase.
Registered 91 dogs and 15 cats during the sensitization phase.
Identified 7 veterinarians willing and committed to assist during the campaign.
Signed up 15 volunteers to help on the days of the campaign.
Attended to 128 dogs and cats during the sterilization campaign on November 19 and 20. Eight dogs had TVT and Dr Marlize Vereynne offered to donate treatment since she lives in Mmokolodi village and would be able to follow up with them. Of the 8 dogs, 3 were sterilized. The remaining 5 will be sterilized once treatment is complete. This brings the total number of sterilizations done to 123 (52 dogs neutered, 50 spayed and 9 cats neutered, 12 spayed).
All sterilized pets received a bag of pet food.
Pictures from the November campaign:
So many companies and people came to the aid of the BSPCA during these campaigns (making our grant go so much further)! Just as an example: Medswana provided a vehicle to assist with logistics, and donated gazebos for shade; Agripet Shop also assisted with a vehicle to carry equipment; Montego Botswana provided gazebos, snacks, and thank you packs for the vets (appreciation certificate, t shirt, torch, and sweets); Choppies provided lunch and refreshments. Students from the University of Botswana and BUAN volunteered-they checked on dogs as they woke up, spray dipped the dogs, and gave out food to the pet owners.
These campaigns really brought people from various communities together, all to serve the animals!
What happens next?
This project was implemented with sustainability at the forefront. The campaigns took place in areas fairly close to the BSPCA shelter so that the BSPCA can follow up with talks in the communities, at schools, and at other gatherings such as Kgotla (traditional council) meetings. Some people had puppies who were too young for s/n or dogs who weren't in a healthy enough state to be sterilized. The BSPCA can easily follow up and sterilizations given the proximity to the shelter.
Community members received pamphlets about services that the BSPCA offers, and they learned that they could report animal cruelty, strays, and abandoned animals to the BSPCA. Even during the sensitization phase, after getting to know of the services that the BSPCA offers, two members of the Tlokweng community reported cases of animal cruelty.
For those of you interested in learning more, especially things that could help in your next sterilization campaign, we asked BSPCA vet, Dr. Rumbi, about lessons learned. This is what she said:
Firstly, one of the biggest lessons learnt is the importance of teamwork. From the beginning of the project, it was important to ensure that the whole team was on the same page. This was very important as every single staff member had an important role to play. It was therefore necessary for everyone to understand what our goal was and what steps we would take to accomplish the goal at each stage.
Another lesson learnt was the importance of networking and maintaining good relationships with colleagues and local organizations/companies. Without these relationships we would not have managed to get the support we got from veterinarians in both private and public sector as well as the other local companies that contributed in various ways towards the sterilization campaign.
From having the campaign in two locations, with a poor turn out in Tlokweng and a very good turnout in Mmokolodi, we noted the major difference was that in Mmokolodi we had members of the community assisting us with spreading information whereas in Tlokweng we had no one from the community assisting us. Lesson learnt is the importance of looking for contact people from the community who better understand the people and the best way to approach and package information. We will certainly ensure we do that for any future projects.
Six dogs took their stitches out after the Mmokolodi campaign. Luckily because of the 2-day campaign, the stitches could easily be redone. Lesson learnt here was to ensure that there is at least a contact person in the village (local vet or vet technician) or just someone who can be taught how to do basic first aid. This is also something to consider in the event that we do the campaign in an area hours away from the shelter.
This project had a very positive impact on our staff morale. Everyone worked very hard and for the team to see their hard work paying off and our organization making a difference in the community really boosted their self-confidence. Working in an animal shelter is often a thankless job so to see people in these communities being appreciative of the efforts made was good for the staff.