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..........linking the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment
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Key words and phrases: animal health, animal welfare,
community based animal health, environment, ethics, ethnoveterinary, indigenous/local knowledge,
participative, appraisal, monitoring and evaluation, training, veterinary, sleeping ruff, tail docking
Updated September 2009.
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THE RANGE OF COMMUNITY ANIMAL HEALTH AND WELFARE SERVICES
The range of animal health and welfare services operating at community level includes:
Much of this webite concentrates on projects
in which community animal health workers are trained to serve
their communities. However, these are not the only projects working
within communities to improve animal health and welfare. People
are involved with animals in widely different ways. Animals
can play a variety of different roles. Animal health services tend
to limit their focus to specific groups of animals. Yet many useful
lessons can be learnt across these different services or projects.
With government and private veterinary clinics, the following illustrate
a range of approaches to animal healthcare provision at community
level. Even within the type of service or project there are many differences,
reflecting how each place is unique with a different starting point.
Projects should anyway draw on local resources and develop organically
as far as possible. Different approaches will be appropriate for different
Local specialists with local knowledge
In many places, people still rely almost exclusively
on local knowledge and local specialists, with no outside inputs
at all. Local knowledge may include use of some drugs, vaccines
and other exogenous husbandry practices as well as traditional practices
or treatments. New projects need to ensure they do not undermine
this existing local knowledge.
Ethnoveterinary knowledge (EVK) projects
Some projects have been set up specifically
to support the continuation, propagation and verification of
local ‘traditional’ veterinary treatments and knowledge. While
EVK includes husbandry, spiritual and surgical practices as well
as remedies, specific projects often focus on plant-based treatments.
There are many EVK-based projects in India, some aiming to make the
plant remedies commercially available, others giving greater emphasis
to social factors affecting their use within the community. There
are also examples from Africa. Heifer Project International was involved
in establishing gardens of veterinary medicinal plants in Cameroon.
IT-Kenya has a project in Samburu District investigating local treatments
which are used with confidence and returning knowledge to the community
with ‘added value’. The Christian Veterinary Mission has a similar
project in Karamoja, northern Uganda. In Tanzania there is a collaborative
project between the Animal Disease Research Institute of Dar-es-Salaam
and Vetaid, a British NGO, investigating local veterinary knowledge.
In addition, many individuals and small community projects are collecting
and dealing with their own local knowledge either informally or as
part of their other work. Increasingly, it is being recognized that EVK
should provide the starting point for all CAHW projects – an approach
advocated in this book.
EVK page (page 3 of CAHW pages)
ETHNOVETWEB - the ethno-veterinary website
the ethno-veterinary e-mailing list
PRELUDE Database of Veterinary Medicinal Plants of Africa
Farmer/herder education projects
Projects which aim to increase farmer or herder
knowledge labour under the name of extension projects and have
a long and chequered history. When done well, direct work with
farmers and herders can address problems identified by the farmers
and herders themselves, possibly in response to changing demands
from the market, and can help develop practical solutions. When done
badly, messages from a centrally planned agriculture policy are broadcast
unasked and unwanted to farmers who remain unreceptive to the advice
they are being given.
Farmer/herder education is useful for things
which farmers or herders do for themselves. What is appropriate
for pastoralists who do most things to their animals themselves
may not be appropriate for a settled farmer who pays someone else to
do specialized tasks.
Successful examples of direct farmer training
often involve an investigative phase (which may come from the
working experience of a local vet or animal healthcare worker);
an understanding of why things are being done the way they are,
including time and financial constraints for the farmer/herder;
and timing of interventions at appropriate and convenient times of
the day, season and year. They will usually have simple, specific aims
such as teaching good birthing practices and neo-natal care, or teaching
the correct and timely use of wormers.
Examples of less useful projects include those
which aim to teach donkey owners better harnessing practices
using harnesses too expensive for owners to afford.
In East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea in
the late 1980s, the Provincial Livestock Officer saw that the
existing veterinary services (town-based, with a ruminant bias,
and designed around the operational needs of veterinary service
staff) had fallen out of line with the needs of village livestock
owners who mostly keep pigs and poultry. During informal meetings,
villagers identified internal parasites as the health problem of
greatest concern, so simple in-village training was given on parasite
Community-based animal health workers / Community vaccinators
Most of this website is about community-based
animal health workers (CAHWs). These people tend to operate
as private business men and women, selling their services and drugs
within their own communities after a short, locally appropriate
training course. Some CAHW projects have started as Community
vaccinator projects with various structures but with the CAHW only using
see also the CAHW page
the Community-Based Animal HealthCare Network
People’s committees animal health workers (PCAHWs)
Under communist regimes, for example in Ethiopia
in the 1980s and in Vietnam up to the present, PCAHWs have been
part of the local administration infrastructure throughout the
country. In some ways these are similar to CAHWs and the experience
of these programmes might be useful for those considering the ‘scaling-up’
of CAHW projects. At this scale, it is more difficult to ensure
that communities have a say in choosing the person who is to become
the PCAHW, a central tenet of the sort of projects described in this
book. It is also difficult to ensure consistent quality from so numerous
a group of service providers. It is unclear whether local communities
have any influence on whether ineffective PCAHWs can be replaced
and deprived of their licences to work. It is unclear what formal
relationship exists between PCAHWs and other levels of animal health
workers such as AHAs and vets.
Alternative medicine services
In addition to traditional or western animal
health services, other forms of therapy are becoming popular.
For example homeopathy is popular in various parts of the world
(e.g. India, Europe) and different ‘physical’ therapies – including
physiotherapy, massage, shiatsu, reiki – are used by animal keepers.
Usually these are provided on a commercial basis by private practitioners.
Donkey and draft animal projects
A number of charitable projects target horses,
donkeys and mules used for transport, because they often suffer
terribly. This suffering is particularly prevalent in rapidly
changing urban and peri-urban areas where there is little tradition
of their use and care, and where both animals and owners survive on
increasingly insecure short-term livelihoods. In various places,
charities are providing veterinary, foot care and harnessing services.
The approaches used vary and include static hospitals, mobile clinics,
owner open days, training of local farriers and other specialists. Some
services are entirely free; others attempt some recovery of costs by charging
for the service.
The Donkey Sanctuary,
SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad),
WHW (World Horse Welfare),
TAWS (Transport Animal Welfare Society),
and ATNESA (Animal Traction Development)
are British charities which work almost exclusively in this sector. Some of these are now
investigating the same participative approaches used by CAHW projects.
see also: 'The Welfare of Donkeys'
Animal birth control (ABC) projects
Town councils and similar local authorities
often consider all cats and dogs that are not obviously owned
to be strays. Strays are considered to be a health risk especially
when rabies is endemic, a hygiene risk because of faeces, and a danger
because they can bite and scratch. In the past it was often thought
that the best way to deal with strays was by mass killing, even if
this involved terrible means.
Recent studies have shown a number of errors
in the above views. Even if cats and dogs are not obviously owned,
they may have a place in the affections of the local community,
and they may be fed and cared for by local people. Local cat and
dog populations are often quite settled and static and their numbers
are at the level they are because of human support (which implies
a responsibility to control them humanely). Mass killing alone does
little to control numbers in the long term because other animals soon
move into an area that has been cleared. And, by destabilizing populations
and encouraging the movement of animals, control by slaughter has
been found to increase the chances of dog bites and the spread of rabies.
Surprisingly, bites from pet dogs have been found to be generally more
serious than those from strays. Also mass killing has become less acceptable
for humanitarian reasons.
As a result of these findings, guidelines for
the control of urban cat and dog populations have been drawn
up by WHO (World Health Organization), involved primarily because
of rabies control. By advocating control by surgical neutering,
these guidelines throw ABC programmes into the veterinary arena.
There is still much scope for improvement to
these programmes based on behavioural studies of the animals
themselves and social studies among the communities in which the
animals are living. Many programmes are already appreciating the
value of community involvement, in much the same way that CAHW programmes
have learnt the value of community involvement, and are considering
the role of community education in taking their work forward.
Town councils often have the statutory duty
to deal with ‘stray’ animals but local animal welfare charities
may also become involved, usually attempting to raise welfare standards
by doing so. These animal welfare charities can be numerous and are
good models of local self-organization offering opportunities for
direct collaboration with western charities and funding agencies.
Some western welfare charities such as WSPA (World Society for
the Protection of Animals) already operate at least partly through
collaborations of this sort.
see also: 'Street Dog'
Charity companion animal clinics & services
In some places, charities provide free or heavily
subsidized veterinary services to certain sections of society.
These services may be provided through existing private veterinary clinics,
for example using vouchers, or the charity may operate its own static
or mobile clinics. Equine clinics, as mentioned above, are one example
of this. In the UK, several charities provide these services for companion
animals owned by people on government means-tested benefits.
The NCDL (National Canine Defence League) has
programmes for helping with neutering, vaccination and parasite control of dogs.
They also have specific programmes to assist homeless people with dogs.
The Cat Protection offer similar services for
cats. The Blue Cross,
PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals)
and RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals) all have their own clinics. There are many other, smaller local
charities offering similar assistance, usually through sympathetic private veterinary
Some of the charities running these clinics
have been operating for 100 years or more. Within their own frame
of reference, these services are proving quite sustainable.
Subsidized animal health services
Government veterinary services are generally
subsidized. Donors (e.g. IMF, World Bank) are trying to restrict
the range of subsidized services to cut costs. Services which primarily
benefit the animal owner (‘private good services’) are supposed
to be handed over to the private sector, while government can continue
to pay for services which primarily benefit the country (‘public
good services’). Payment by government to the private sector for performing
public good services can, to a certain extent, continue to subsidize
private good work.
Directly subsidized government veterinary services
remain in place in some parts of western Europe, for example in
the Highlands and Islands Scheme in Scotland, and for the same political
reasons that many aid recipient countries are trying to resist
having to privatize all their veterinary services. These reasons
can include maintaining the viability of rural communities, or levelling
costs across the country to make services equally accessible to the
Community and public dialogue or education projects
Community education projects are appropriate
where improved understanding or changes in attitudes and behaviour
patterns across a community can lead to improvements in human and
animal health and welfare. Community education, through school teaching,
leaflets, newsletters, radio, television or whatever, works primarily
by raising awareness about issues and encouraging public debate.
Many projects come to realize the usefulness of including some community
education activities, even though it can be difficult both to do and
to evaluate. Draft donkey health and welfare projects in Ethiopia
have circulated books around many of the primary schools in the country
which illustrate in story form the ways that community-identified ‘good
donkey owners’ look after their animals. Animal birth control projects
in India have learnt that involving and informing communities increases
the effectiveness and acceptability of their work.
Some sort of dialogue with a community is necessary
if community education is to be successful. This is not easy
because communities are complex, and community leaders often feel
they speak for their communities even when there are distinct groups
within the community who are clearly un- or under-represented.
These processes require time and willingness to learn from the community,
things which projects on tight funding schedules do not always
have much of. Yet without them, ‘community dialogue’ can too easily
become ‘community monologue’.
Community wildlife management projects
Views on wildlife
vary between those who believe that it has a value independent
from human interest and that it should be left alone, and those
who believe that its survival now will depend on how valuable it
is to human society. In the latter camp, there is increasing interest
in projects that involve local communities in the care and management
of local wildlife. This interest is based on a view that such involvement
provides the most realistic hope of ensuring survival of wildlife.
Such projects now often include some facility for the care and rehabilitation
of sick, injured or orphaned wild animals and the development
of health services for domestic animals. This is partly because
of the risk of disease spread between wild and domestic animal populations,
but also because such an approach seems balanced and sensible.
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