Help for stray horses in South India
Veterinary care and secure grazing areas
Covid-19 crisis: Animal welfare work in times of a pandemic
Some activities and focal points of our animal welfare work worldwide – whether sanctuaries, trainings or mobile clinics – had to be paused or adapted in response to the pandemic:
Still, it is our highest priority to safe animal lives, but we cannot risk the health of our partners in doing so. To enable us to carry on our basic animal welfare work despite the current crisis, we have developed the WTG Emergency Fund. Read more about the fund here https://welttierschutz.org/en/wtg-emergency-fund/
We promise to do everything in our power to continue offering the best protection for all animals – the stray cats and dogs, livestock such as donkeys, cattle, sheep and goats as well as wildlife like pangolins and sloths, elephants and bears. Please support our work https://welttierschutz.org/secure/spenden/emergency-fund/
Stray cows are a part of the everyday life in numerous Indian cities. In the South Indian mountain city Ooty (Indian: Udagamandalam) however, the streets are characterised by other animals. An estimated 350 neglected stray horses and ponies roam the area in search for food. The Welttierschutzgesellschaft, along with its partner organisation Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), provides free veterinary treatment for the animals, offers training for local vets and raises awareness about animal welfare among animal keepers.
Untreated injuries, inappropriate harnesses and food cause unnecessary suffering for the big horses and ponies in Ooty. Life on the street poses additional dangers - sometimes with deadly consequences. Together with our local partner we help the injured animals.
The mountain village Ooty is a popular destination for travellers from all over the world. On the back of horses, the tourists are exploring the area: uphill, downhill, day in, day out - the numerous horses and ponies are constantly working. The animals are often the only source of income for their already financially struggling owners. Due to the lack of animal housing facilities and their own poor financial situation, owners are often forced to abandon the animals to their fate, in absence of tourists and need for animal labour. From one day to another, the animals are condemned to a life as strays
Without protection from the burning heat of the sun and exposure to increasingly heavy rainfall and flooding during the monsoon season, the horses wander through the streets. Moving around in heavy traffic, the animals are in constant danger of traffic accidents and panic situations. This can lead to the separation of mothers and their foals, who have no chance of survival on their own.
The constant search for food also poses a danger to the animals: The frequent intake of food is natural for horses; they spend up to 18 hours a day eating. The subsequent chewing of the food is an important occupation for the animals, which helps reduce stress and contributes to the well-being of the animals. However, the lack of green spaces leads the animals to search for food in overflowing rubbish bins. Apart from food waste, they also consume plastic parts that, over time, form an indigestible plastic lump in the stomach. The agonizing, deadly results: Intestinal obstruction and intestinal perforation.
Mobile clinics and animal welfare education for the owners
Due to the success of our mobile clinics for donkeys, which we have been conducting with our partner organisation Worldwide Veterinary Service since 2013, we decided to adapt this approach to the horses and ponies of Ooty and its surrounding villages in 2017.
With our mobile clinics, we have managed to treat more than 100 horses in Ooty during the first two years. By now, we are also able to treat the horses in a safe and protected setting: The local authorities have allowed us to use a small building located right near the tourist areas as an animal clinic. This way we are able to examine and treat the animals in more hygienic conditions, away from the busy traffic.. Here, a team consisting of three veterinarians, a veterinarian in training, a veterinary assistant and a blacksmith provide free veterinary examinations for horses and ponies three days a month.
Each animal brought in is thoroughly examined, vaccinated and treated against parasites. They also receive dental and hoof care. Especially good hoof care is important for the health and wellbeing of horses and is always a focus during the three clinic days. The clinic days are also used to microchip animals to be able to officially register them to their owner. With the local authorities, we are currently discussing the possibility of making a monthly health check of animals mandatory. This would ensure that no ill and injured animals are used for the tourist attractions. Currently the team regularly heads to the horse-riding hotspots in the districts of 9thMile and Kandal and treats the horses and ponies working there. Additionally, the team members help when there are emergencies, such as accidents and tumbles.
Safe pasture and housing for stray horses
To protect the stray horses and ponies in Ooty, whose owners cannot be found or do not have any housing options for their animals, the city authorities have, after numerous discussions, agreed to provide a suitable, spacious and centrally-located pasture area for the animals. Here, the animals are supposed to be protected from the traffic and, in this context, accidents. Moreover, this is meant to prevent the horses from eating trash and leftovers from the street. In cooperation with another animal welfare organisation – the Nilgiris SPCA – we are now setting up the area to house the horses. Even horses that require long-term medical attention could be housed on this pasture in the future to ensure the around-the-clock care they need.
Extending the mobile clinics to other communities
Our team of six also heads out to communities outside of Ooty. In the cities of Mysore, Palani and Kodaikanal, where horses are also used for riding by tourists, the issues are very similar to the ones in Ooty. Through mobile clinics and emergency care, the team examines and treats stray horses, but also animals whose owner cannot afford veterinary care.
Twice a year, the mobile clinics visit each city for two-days. The team searches for the animals, treats their wounds, vaccinates them and treats them against parasites. If the animals’ owners can be found, they are asked to take part and watch all of the treatment measures and are educated on the necessity and use of veterinary care. Veterinary equipment, medication and large amounts of bandages for wounds are some of the items our team always carries with them
More knowledge for local veterinary students and blacksmiths
As the veterinary training in India barely covers the care of horses, most local vets do not have any knowledge and training in that regard. To improve the situation for horses in Southern India long-term, we also focus on improving theoretical and practical knowledge and skills of future vets. Numerous times a year, five-day workshops are held in the clinic, during which veterinary students can follow the daily procedures of the clinic in Ooty and gain practical knowledge. They attend examinations, de-worming, the administering of vaccinations as well as dental and hoof care. Led by a professional blacksmith, students are also able to meet and learn more about basic animal and veterinary care from local blacksmiths and animal owners in Ooty and two surrounding communities. As a result of the training, they are then able to treat overgrown or damaged hoofs themselves and relief the animals’ of their pain.
Strengthening horse owners’ knowledge and skills
Nevertheless, only when the horse owners develop a sense of understanding for their animals’ needs, the welfare of the animals can be delivered long-term. During the mobile clinics as well as the stationary clinic days, locals – and especially horse owners – are included in all of the veterinary measures taken. This does not only help to improve the animals’ health status long-term, but also builds trust between the locals, the veterinary team, and the work they do. Additionally, visual material in the form of pictures and videos has been developed to highlight the proper way to take care of the animals. A small booklet shows and explains the needs and behaviours of horses and donkeys and compares animal welfare appropriate and non-appropriate situations directly. This booklet is handed to animal owners. It is also distributed in schools to sensitise students to animals’ needs. Short videos, which can be spread to animal owners via social media, have also been created. Especially interested owners can sign up for additional training on animal welfare topics offered by our partner and can receive additional material, such as a hoof care set.
Through this variety of measures we are effectively educating the locals to help themselves and are creating a foundation for better animal welfare in Southern India.