SIEM REAP (Khmer Times) – On the heels of World Rabies Day last Saturday, the World Vets organization is coming to Siem Reap next Tuesday to Thursday to provide free treatment and sterilization for animals that would not otherwise have access to veterinary care.
The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge estimates that there is one dog for every three humans in Cambodia, a ratio that is more than four times that of neighboring countries.
Cambodia has the second-highest estimated human rabies incidence in Asia, with an average of 810 recorded human rabies cases annually.
Three years ago Belgian expatriate Josette Vanneur founded Siem Reap Pagoda Cats rescue. She and veterinary nurse Katie Russell quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the volume and severity of treatment needed.
“The Khmer people don’t see dogs and cats as pets as some foreigners do,” Ms. Vanneur explains from her home.
“A cat in a Khmer home works to catch rats. A dog works as a guard. Khmer people in the city feed their dogs leftovers, but in the countryside they don’t feed the dog at all. That’s why you see many dogs roaming the streets. This is a problem.”
Issue of Cost
“This begs the question of cost,” Ms. Vanneur continues down the list of complicated issues. At the low end of the scale, de-sexing a male cat costs around $60. De-sexing a female cat costs $130, and female dogs cost even more depending on their size.
To further complicate things, Siem Reap’s cats and dogs must rely on visiting vets for treatment requiring anesthetic.
Several months ago the government banned the free sale of anesthetic medicine because it was being used for recreational drugs. Now use is restricted to fully licensed vets with their own clinic.
Ms. Russell has been running Siem Reap Veterinary Services for five years. She has been trying a long time to get a permanent vet to Siem Reap, as she is not qualified to perform surgeries, but the task has proved difficult.
Three years ago, two vets and a vet technician from Infinite Hope in New York spent a week at different pagodas in Siem Reap to treat and sterilize dogs of Khmer people and dogs and cats staying at the pagodas.
“Many, many Khmer people came,” Ms. Vanneur remembers. “It was a huge success. That’s why I am very hopeful about World Vets. It took a long time, and it costs a lot of money for the vets to visit; to fly here, to stay here…but everything is paid for and brought by the volunteer vets.”