9.12.2019 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is looking back at yet another successful year of its Stray Animal Care (SAC) project in Ukraine. In 2019, the team on-site treated 2,275 homeless dogs and cats in multiple cities throughout the country. Ever since the project was launched in 2012 as a response to the brutal culling of stray dogs in preparation of the UEFA football championship in Kiev, 25,000 animals in 49 cities have been vaccinated, neutered and treated. According to the WHO, Ukraine has the highest incidence of rabies cases among European countries.Goal of the FOUR PAWS project is to support the authorities in establishing a non-lethal approach to reducing the stray animal population in the country and prevent rabies outbreaks in the long term. Measures to raise awareness contribute to a dramatic change in attitude towards stray animals among the Ukrainian population.
FOUR PAWS’ projects have included a 3-year collaborative agreement to neuter stray animals based in a permanent clinic in the city of Zhytomyr, as well as sending a mobile veterinary clinic to Ukrainian municipalities that request support to manage their stray animal populations. Due to the unfavorable political situation in Ukraine, many municipal authorities struggle to provide local mass sterilisation programmes for stray animals on their own. In order to end brutal culling of strays, FOUR PAWS uses the catch-neuter-vaccinate-release technique that reduces the stray animal population in a humane and sustainable way.
“Our team on-site is teaching local dog catchers and vets how to apply international expertise to their local situation. We are happy to see in the annual dog survey counts that the cities which continue the work that FOUR PAWS started show a clear decline of the stray animal population,”
says Alesya Lischyshyna, who leads FOUR PAWS’ Stray Animal Care project in Ukraine.
Rabies prevention benefits human and animal health
Without measures of population control and vaccination, the numbers of stray animals rapidly grow, and the risk of rabies outbreaks can increase. FOUR PAWS vaccinates all stray dogs they operate on to prevent the virus from spreading in dogs. Since the disease is fatal once symptoms arise, people are fearful of stray animals and often mis-treat them. As unvaccinated dogs are the primary source of rabies in humans, vaccinating them actually helps to protect local communities by preventing transmission of the disease. This has the added benefit that it also improves the attitude of humans towards the stray animals. “People see the blue ear tag and know that the animal is vaccinated against rabies and neutered. By raising awareness within the population, we want to reduce any misconceptions and fears people have towards stray dogs to prevent violent human-animal confrontations. Killing the animals is not a sustainable solution. Therefore, it’s an important aspect of our project to educate people on the situation of stray animals and the work we do locally,” says Lischyshyna.
Legal foundation secured
According to censuses, at least 50,000 dogs live without a home. There are no estimates for cats – there are likely to be several million. In 2017, Ukraine reached an important milestone by introducing an animal welfare act for the protection of stray animals. Furthermore, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection and welfare of stray animals throughout the country. With this strengthened legal foundation, FOUR PAWS is determined to continue its work to improve the wellbeing of stray animals by reducing their numbers in a humane way and preventing rabies outbreaks in the long term.