A fundamental part of our work in the Philippines, but one that is often not talked about as readily, is education. In 2017 we launched the IWCT Education Programme, aiming to change the culture surrounding the way animals, and in particular dogs, are treated in the Philippines.Dogs have historically been viewed very differently in Southeast Asia, in comparison to how they are viewed in other parts of the World. In the UK it is very commonplace to own a dog or other pet, but this is not the case in countries like the Philippines. It’s very normal to see stray dogs roaming the streets and there is a much greater fear of dogs, particularly in the more remote countryside provinces, which is mainly due to the association that people make between dogs and Rabies.
Our Education Programme involves a small IWCT team of a Vet and Veterinary Assistant, who visit schools and provincial areas, where they hold 1-2 hour seminars, teaching children about how to treat dogs and the benefit and joy that they can bring to their lives. The sessions also provide the opportunity for children to ask the team any questions they might have about dogs and how to care for them.
We cover everything from rabies awareness, the importance of regular exercise, a balanced and nutritious diet, essential vaccinations that dogs need to stay disease free and the significance of neutering to help prevent litters of puppies being born that can’t be cared for. This may all sound quite straightforward, but the value of teaching the basic facts cannot be underestimated. We use interactive material to really help the children engage with the topics.
During our Education Programme seminars, we also aim to dispel the myths and beliefs that still surround dogs in the Philippines. Myths like the concept of removing a dog’s teeth, whilst they are still a puppy, to prevent them from contracting Rabies, and practices like tying elastic bands around the testicles of a male puppy to castrate them! The only way to remove these misconceptions is through education.
We often see dogs with unsuitable, makeshift collars, made from chains or string, some of which can be very dangerous, particularly if a dog is growing, so we always try to supply these dogs with new nylon collars, a simple act but one that makes a huge difference to that dog and the way it is valued.
We are also introducing people to the other ways that dogs can add value to their lives, for example helping with disaster relief, providing therapy for the infirmed and poorly, although very often just having the opportunity to explain the joy that a dog can bring a person and their family is what is required.
Our Education Programme was restricted due to the Covid pandemic, however, we are now able to start returning to schools as well as community centres (or barangays, as they are known). Our new Treatment Centre also boasts a seminar room, so we can deliver our Education Programme alongside our clinics. To widen our reach and further promote responsible pet ownership, we also have a lot of educational material available in print (to give at our own or mobile clinics) and online, which can be accessed anywhere at any time.