The first Companion Pet Expo took place this past weekend in Siem Reap. Organised by long-term resident and animal activist, Nicole Kramer, it was a gathering of all pet related businesses and organisations.
Among the attendees were pet shops, veterinary practices, animal rescue agencies, individual rescuers, pet owners and people who are pet lovers or are considering to get a pet. The people that came to the expo were able to meet and greet, exchange ideas, and learn about important issues facing animals and their owners in Cambodia from the experts. Topics such as animal health and nutrition, dog training, dog meat trade, animals and environment, microchipping, hygiene and much more were discussed.
The location of the Expo – Ankhor Hub – provided a perfect setting for the guests to mingle, interact, participate in demonstrations and hear the panelists speak.
At the first panel, Monk Stevid Jhon & Paw Patrol Cambodia spoke in detail about their work with street and pagoda animals in Siem Reap.
I was personally amazed to learn about Stevid Jhon and his dedication to animal welfare. In fact, many of us who did not know Stevid before were astounded to hear him talk about the dogs he looks after in his pagoda and his wise words about dogs’ behaviour and needs. He repeated several times that dogs are sentient beings and must be treated as such – with respect and consideration of their wellbeing, not less than human.
The emotional moment came when Stevid Jhon was asked what would happen to his dogs when he eventually leaves monkhood and his pagoda: his voice broke, and tears streamed down his face. I was amazed at such dedication and passion for animals. Later I have learned from others that he has been at the front of animal welfare promotion among Cambodians and foreigners.
Paw Patrol Cambodia is relatively new to Siem Reap, but both Jen and Derek – the couple who founded and run it – are dedicated animal lovers. They are resolved to ensure that animals in pagodas have access to medical treatment, adequate nutrition, vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. The couple goes to their five pagodas daily, know all the animals there and take care of as many as they can.
I have personally visited their pagodas and met the dogs; I must say that these were the healthiest and friendliest dogs I have seen. One of the huge goals of Paw Patrol is to work with pagoda leaders to ensure that the stray dog and cat population is controlled. To that end, they have finally got a permission of the Head Monk to sterilise seven female dogs – and what do you know? Our Animal Mama team did the free sterilisations the very next day after the Expo. It was truly fantastic to be able to hear Stevid Jhon, Jen and Derek speak and actually be able to help in their important mission!
Another important panel was made up of local and foreigner vet practitioners, nurses and doctors. The topics that were discussed affect not only street or pagoda animals, but all pets and companion animals alike: mange, ticks and fleas, parasite-borne diseases, canine transmissible venereal tumors (TVTs), internal parasites, the importance of spaying and neutering your animals, species appropriate diet requirements, and much more. The interest and participation from the Expo attendees were amazing. There were lots of questions and many shared their own stories and experiences with their pets.
Rattana Hin, the Khmer dog trainer, was also there to demonstrate and share his methods of dog training, talk about dog behaviour and human-dog interaction. Again, the dog owners tuned in to hear and see Rattana’s presentation with keen interest. Rattana used participatory approach to his presentation, using few dogs from the audience to show how he trains them. It was fun and also the entreating part of the panel presentation.
One of my favourite presentations was by Dr. Lucy Harissa, who talked about the dog meat trade, its negative impact on human health and myths surrounding the consumption of dog meat. She also spoke about her own project – Sabay Vegilicious – with a Cambodian family, who used to own and operate a dog meat restaurant. After meeting with Marc Ching and Lucy, the couple decided to change their menu to vegetarian.
Marc’s organisation has helped financially to start this project and Lucy has been working for the past several months with the family, creating the menu, marketing, training staff and managers. Sabay Vegilicious is located in Phnom Penh and is currently doing well. It is the first restaurant of its kind that turned from dog meat trade to a vegetarian cuisine and stayed successful.
Overall, the Pet Companion Expo in Siem Reap was a great success. It was not driven by greed or profit-making, but rather by unity and shared interests. The attendees and presenters had much to share, discuss and see how businesses and non-profits could help each other make the country better for both animals and humans. The setting of the Expo was casual enough for people from all walks of life to feel welcomed and included. Everyone left more informed, educated and of course, made many new friends.
Congratulations to all involved.
Animal Mama® Animal Clinic & Welfare Centre provides a wide range of services for animals & pets: vet care, boarding, daycare, pet food & supplies, hydrotherapy, grooming and doggy play dates.
Please visit us at:
Villa #15, Street 500
Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh 12311