Saturday, December 6, 2014

Helping dogs in rural and remote Indigenous communities

With Stephen Cutter, Sophie Cutter, Brooke Robertson and Linda Bradbury. We desexed and wormed these puppies.
Considered living remotely? There are lots of awesome things about living in remote Australian communities – no peak-hour traffic, stunning scenery, and wildlife just dropping by.

Ahhh bliss, The light hits Uluru just before sunset.
But access to veterinary care is restricted – some communities are 500 or 1000km to the nearest vet, and vet care can be out of the reach (both physically and financially) for many living in rural and remote communities.

As a result, many animals in these communities suffer from preventable conditions including reproductive disorders like pyometra and transmissible venereal tumours, parasitism (heartworm disease, tick-borne disease, high worm burdens) and problems that stem from lack of population control (dog fighting, for example). This leads to poor health and welfare, but also impacts on human health and wellbeing (for example, the rate of zoonoses and dog bites).

tick parasite puppy
Tick found between puppy's toes as he recovers from anaesthesia.
I’ve just spent two weeks volunteering in my favourite Territory (sorry Canberra, but the NT has stolen my heart) with AMRRIC – Animal Management in Rural and Remote IndigenousCommunities.

Our teams set up field hospitals, asked owners whether and which dogs they wanted desexed, performed surgery and returned the dogs to the owners afterwards. It’s very different to city practice in just about every way. Red dust seems to be ubiquitous. Sometimes we had the owners or local kids watching the surgery. (And for the vetty minded, total intravenous anaesthesia and flank speys are the norm). At the town of Mutitjulu, our view from the surgery was Uluru – just sitting outside the window like a big red dog. Two days in a row it actually rained on Uluru, the entire rock turning briefly silver.

The view from the window.
Temperatures in Central Australia can soar. A lot of dogs dig holes in the dirt because it is a bit cooler. More so if your hole happens to be right beside a tap.
The reason I’ve been involved with AMRRIC so long is that this is an organisation that recognises the important role that healthy dogs have to play in Indigenous communities. I can’t think of a better way to help people and animals simultaneously.

Lots of dogs. Desexing definitely improves their quality of life - and that of the community.
You can support AMRRIC by becoming a member, but another way is to send a family member or friend an AMRRIC donation card for xmas (see here). Its a really easy way to make a difference.  

Disclosure: this is not a sponsored post. The author is a member and volunteer for AMRRIC.

dogs desert water
Cooling off with a friend.
Travel tip: if you do visit Uluru, you can do the base walk (a 10.5km round trip) - OR you can hire a bike from Outback Cycles (we paid $30 for three hours) and ride around. The best time to do it is the second the bike hire opens - 6.30am, as the temperature climbs rapidly (and if you do it this way there is still plenty of time to watch the sunrise). From the Cultural Centre its a 14km round trip. As we rode past walkers who were sweating and fading and just looking like they were having a really uncomfortable time of it we realised this was a brilliant decision. Why stroll when you can roll?