Creation of PAWS
We established PAWS – Peru Animal Welfare Society – to address the serious issues experienced by roaming dogs and find a humane solution to population control. The project consists of three strands, each of which targets a major problem related to the roaming dog population:
1) Neutering: Through free neuter/spay surgeries in rural villages, we offer better solutions to difficult problems and a humane alternative to control the dog population.
2) Veterinary care: Provision of free, regular healthcare and routine vaccines ensures dogs are healthier and can live longer, happier lives.
3) Education: Teaching children and communities about proper care of their dogs is key to changing attitudes towards animal care and welfare and encouraging long-term change.
Together, these activities will greatly improve the lives of both the dogs themselves and the human population.
How our Programme Works
The villages around Cusco have high concentrations of dogs and no access to veterinary care. The PAWS mobile veterinary clinic is designed to be the vital link between rural village dogs and access to healthcare. Most of of the village stray dogs have owners that allow them to roam free and although some dogs are not claimed by an owner, they are often fed by locals.
In our mobile clinic, we take veterinary care to the villages, offering neutering, regular health checks, vaccinations and parasite treatments, free of charge. By working with the owners, we can help them better understand the responsibilities of pet ownership and improve how animals are cared for.
The Step by Step Dog Care Plan
- Build relationships with village leaders to run regular veterinary care and neutering days
- Spend time in the village to record numbers and details of the animals and owners.
- Work with the community to create ownership of dogs without owners.
- Provide routine healthcare to the dogs, including parasite medications and vaccinations
- Identify the dogs that can be neutered.
- Return to the village on a pre-selected date with our experienced veterinary surgeon to neuter the selected dogs.
- Monitor the dogs over the next few days to ensure they are recovering correctly.
- Return to the villages regularly to provide ongoing healthcare and identify new candidates for neutering.
Our support is always well received, as owners want their dogs to be healthy, and the large number of dogs is a big problem for the communities. By committing to providing veterinary care and neutering, we hope to be able to convince families in the village to adopt the stray dogs as well.
The dog overpopulation problem will never be solved unless dogs stop breeding. By taking neutering to the villages in our mobile clinic, we remove one of the barriers that prevents people from sterilising their animals: access. Since surgery is expensive and there are no veterinary clinics nearby, village residents have historically been unable to get their animals neutered, even if they wanted to. But by providing free surgeries at our mobile clinic, we make neutering accessible.
PAWS mobile clinic offers an alternative solution to the population control issue. Through neutering, we can stop dog populations from growing, in a humane way. This means that individuals and communities will no longer have to take drastic action – such as killing puppies or culling entire dog populations – to keep numbers down. In a nutshell, neutering saves lives!
Veterinary Care & Vaccinations
Routine veterinary care, such as provision of de-worming and flea treatments, is non-existent in the villages, yet it is such as simple – and cost effective – way to improve animal health. We visit each village regularly, ensuring to provide these routine treatments, as well as carry out routine health checks. The mobile clinic is also stocked up to treat many common illnesses and injuries that we may come across during the check-ups.
Almost all village dogs are unvaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to a host of common, preventable diseases such as distemper, which can cause horrific, permanent nerve damage, if not death. Routine vaccinations provided by our mobile clinic prevent dogs from catching and spreading these diseases, improving the health of individual dogs and the general population.
One of the root causes of the out-of-control dog population and the issues that dogs face, is a lack of understanding of the importance of animal welfare and care. The Five Freedoms of animal welfare are central to our work, and we use this framework as the basis to teach children and communities about proper care of their animals. Education is key to help change attitudes and promote long-term change.
Initially, we will focus on one-to-one conversations with the owners, discussing their animals’ medical, nutritional and exercise needs, the responsibilities of dog ownership, and keeping their animals safe from harm. We will also work with the community members and leaders to help them understand that neutering is the best way to control dog populations.
In the future, we plan to expand this strand of the programme, offering animal welfare workshops for children. Children are often the main carers of family pets and are the ones that show the most love and affection to their animals: this bodes well for the future of the programme!
We understand that our project will take time to reduce the number of dogs and we are limited by the available resources. Dog shelters in the city are always full and are unable to take on more residents.
A future solution would be for a foster and adoption programme. This programme would not be limited by numbers in the way city's shelters are. A network of foster homes could be created with the aim of re-homing dogs awaiting adoption. PAWS would be able to provide healthcare and neutering to the dogs, therefore reducing the financial burden on the foster families.
Cusco already has an active animal welfare community and many social media pages dedicated to adoption of abandoned dogs and cats. By working with established adoption networks, we believe that a foster programme has the potential to house a far greater number of animals than a shelter ever could.
Obviously these programmes will not change the situation for strays overnight, but with time they will steadily improve the lives of stray dogs in Cusco.