Animals are dependent on our help, even or especially in economically bad times. I am therefore all the more grateful that many of you not only thought about yourself, but also showed a heart for animals in need in difficult financial times. Thank you very much!
The Susy Utzinger Animal Welfare Foundation has been known to me since childhood. My "only" financial support has given way to my seat on the Foundation Board and numerous active engagements at home and abroad. I encountered many - positive as well as negative - animal fates, gained insight into new cultures and was able to lay the foundation for new friendships.
In February I was part of a 16-strong task force that cleaned, tidied up and rebuilt the cat terminal in Gals. Numerous cats were combed out with our help, ears and eyes were cleaned and minor injuries were treated on the spot. Some were so shy that they could only be seen from a distance, others thankfully accepted the offered caresses. The cat terminal station serves as a contact point for old, chronically ill or behavioural cats, which can be offered an alternative to euthanasia.
Two projects were planned for May. On the one hand I spent another day in Gals, on the other hand I made my first stay abroad as part of the SUST. The privately run, semi-official dog shelter in Dubrovnik is the catchment basin for around 200 dogs. They live in large packs in large outdoor enclosures. Many of them suffer from leishmaniasis, an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which affects the immune system of the sick dogs. The animals show either massive skin problems with eczema, open wounds and inflammations on the whole body or suffer from severe gastrointestinal problems with unquenchable diarrhoea. The ectoparasite problem, i. e. the external infestation with fleas, mites and other vermin, is also a major problem. All animals were covered with blood-sucking ticks, the puppies and weaker adult animals were already suffering from anaemia. The idyllic location on a hill above Dubrovnik cannot hide the infrastructural shortcomings: there is neither electricity nor running water, and since the operator is responsible for the entire home alone for most of the time, the personnel capacities are also massively limited. Their dedication to animals is enormous and admirable, but in such a case it is sometimes difficult to be as far away as necessary and to show objectivity for difficult decisions such as euthanasia of a seriously ill or suffering animal. What makes things more difficult is that the home is located in a former military area and, as a relic of the Kosovo war, the entire area is littered with ammunition and war waste. During the operation we not only treated all dogs against ticks and worms, but also disposed of kilos of waste and cleaned the enclosures. It is always amazing to see how much you can achieve as a five-person team in one day and how grateful the people on site are for the support. Thanks to the generous donations, we were able to equip the enclosures with new blankets and toys after the cleaning campaign. I sincerely hope that we have been able to lay the foundations for a successful renovation of the home in this beautiful place. The place as an emerging tourist destination needs such an institution and with the present project the most important step has been taken. I would like to return again and, in the midst of the pack of dogs, I would like to push ahead with the infarstructural expansion and the urgently needed basic medical care.
Shortly before Christmas I travelled to Hurghada, Egypt as part of a group of five. Just outside the city, in the middle of the desert, there is the Bluemoon Animal Center, a shelter for stray dogs, cats and most recently also donkeys. During one week we neutered, chipped, vaccinated and dewormed all animal shelter animals, many street dogs and also animals of private owners. The working conditions in the desert are not comparable to those here. Nevertheless, we were able to provide serious veterinary medicine even in the field under the simplest conditions. As in previous missions, the main task was to provide training and further education for the veterinary surgeon and other interested veterinarians on site. This cooperation with the local population is not always easy, but it is extremely important. They are the ones who take over the care of the animals in the shelter after our departure and continue the project. Often the ideas and work views are different and it takes some time to build up mutual trust and assess the skills of others. For me, it is a question of respect that as a foreign expert, I do not simply impose my ideas on the locals and thus push them to the head, but try to involve the local population and their views. Often you find the way to each other and thus the basis for an efficient cooperation.
For me, the unpaid work for animal welfare during my free time is just as much a part of everyday life as the daily work in a modern practice. I like the flexibility and the return to the essentials that need to be demonstrated when working in the field. A good team not only makes the work easier, but also helps with the emotional processing of the sometimes frightening pictures, which you find in the context of a relief project. Not everywhere, animals are treated with the same respect that has become a matter of course in Switzerland in recent years, or at least should have become so. Animals are not only a labour force, but especially abroad, and if they are no longer suitable for this purpose, they are "disposed of" for financial reasons. The generalized misery and many individual fates in front of my eyes and the boundless gratitude of the people on site motivate me to new missions again and again. Often it is supposed to be small things like a parasite treatment, a blanket for lying down or a filled pot of food that make the life of the animals so much more bearable.
In this sense, many more applications.
Susy Utzinger Foundation for Animal Welfare
Board member and veterinarian