Vet Volunteers Asia

Animal Welfare Operation Wanted Desex Your Pet Posted Apr 13, 2023
Life on the streets is a daily battle of survival for hundreds of stray animals in South-East Asia. Many are in dire need of assistance, suffering from severe neglect, disease and malnutrition. Currently in Cambodia, a stray animal population crisis is overwhelming welfare charity group resources. Local groups are calling for foreign aid; a call that has inspired RSPCA Queensland’s own to act.

RSPCA Queensland Veterinarian Olivia Pozzan said, “Seeing many animals being neglected or suffering needlessly inspired me to want to do something to help. To walk away seemed morally wrong.”

Olivia ventured to the Siem Reap monasteries, gaining the nickname ‘The Barefoot Vet’, to offer her valued expertise and assist in coordinating vital resources. The severity of the issue became apparent when she realised local residents did not recognise the need to care for animals or administer basic health-care.

“One of the main problems is educating the local people that the animals are sentient beings – they feel pain and they feel emotion. They are not just wild creatures. Their welfare is important,” Olivia said.

vet and monk tending to dog on street

More compassionate locals are abandoning cats and dogs at nearby pagodas, hoping the Buddhist monks will provide better care and safety.

But the harsh reality is far grimmer.

Olivia explained, “The average lifespan of a dog in Cambodia is only a few years. The animal welfare groups tend to go around to the different pagodas to give meat because they know they are only getting fed rice and vegetables, so you can only imagine they all have poor nutrition and are severely malnourished.”

These animals are more likely to contract deadly, contagious diseases such as mange, distemper, parvovirus and rabies. Without regular vaccinations and desexing, the animals breed, and because they are in such poor condition their offspring are more prone to contracting parasites, viruses and debilitating disease. It’s a sad, yet avoidable cycle.

vets performing desexing operations in cambodia

Olivia collaborated with a number of local animal welfare groups in Cambodia to organise makeshift clinics, performing daily surgeries on dogs and cats. Working under primitive conditions is challenging for even the most experienced veterinarians, but Olivia was determined to make a difference. The local monks were soon offering their assistance by catching the unwanted pagoda animals for treatment. 

rspca vet smiling with monk and dog

Olivia has also devoted her free time upskilling the local vet, Dr Buntha, with running the Ouk Hok Sy Veterinary Clinic. Dr Buntha conducts many of the pagoda treatments for free, and is hoping to build an animal shelter in Siem Reap. But resources are spread thin, and more education is needed for locals to provide first aid animal care and treatment without relying heavily on Dr Buntha’s knowledge. 

Olivia said, “The long-term strategy is to help the local vet build his animal shelter and upskill his medical and surgical techniques.”

Olivia’s avid commitment has inspired local volunteers to create open discussion and maintain momentum for the future of animal welfare within Cambodia. With the support of RSPCA Queensland, Olivia has returned frequently to Siem Reap with a team of professionals to continue her animal welfare mission. Her team, calling themselves Vet Volunteers Asia, included three RSPCA Queensland vet nurses Marion Wall, Suzie Landy, Jessie Leigh and two vets from the UK.

two vets preparing dog for desexing

“In many South-East Asian countries, there are a lot of animals that need our help – help of skilled veterinarians and people who can donate basic animal first aid,” Dr Pozzan explains.

“Being able to have vaccination and parasite control implemented in every animal would decrease the number of diseases they suffer from.”

While the animal welfare problems in Cambodia seem a world away, unwanted dogs and cats is a global issue. By desexing pets, we can all help to reduce the number of unwanted and abandoned animals in shelters. It can also lead to happier and healthier lives for our pets.

Here at home you can still play your part by desexing your pet. Visit Operation Wanted to receive 20% of dog and cat desexing at participating vets in Queensland until August 31.

Share this article
Find the perfect pet