By Bernadine Rodrigo
The Sri Bodhiraja Foundation is a charity foundation which was gazetted on 29 July 1993 under the Sri Bodhiraja Foundation (Incorporation) Act (No. 30 of 1993), created especially for the purpose of maintaining the wellbeing of the less fortunate citizens of our country. Their work has been going on for decades right up until the very present and now they have begun to expand the scope of their work towards the maintenance of the wellbeing of suffering animals of Sri Lanka.
Their latest campaign is the “Justice for Animals” campaign, through which they provide beneficial healthcare for animals – usually strays who are found in bad conditions on the streets of our country.
Justice for Animals is an initiative which was proposed and currently headed by Sri Bodhiraja Foundation President Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Thero. He is a firm believer of bringing justice to our furry friends and believes strongly that they are our younger siblings. He says that it is important to use our wisdom as “higher creatures” who have the gift of intellect to serve these younger siblings of ours in any way we can. Hence, Justice for Animals was launched in order to provide a platform for all animal welfare groups and individuals to unite to create a world which looks at animals with compassion and brings them justice.
They have not allowed the lockdown to affect the help they give animals. A healthcare unit for animals in Anuradhapura was instituted, which started on 28 April and came to an end yesterday (4 May).
They have previously conducted spay neuter clinics in Dodangoda, Gonapola, Chilaw, Kalpitiya, and Puttalam.
Their most recent work with stray dogs was carried out at the Thanthirimale Rajamaha Viharaya as they had requests from the Head Monk of the temple to come and conduct a programme there. The monks there have shed light on the fact that many come and abandon cats and dogs in the temple premises. Out of the kindness of their hearts, the monks have kept these animals with them and have taken care of them to the best of their abilities. However, the temple, being a religious institution based on simplicity, does not have the adequate means nor staff to take care of the health of these animals.
Hence, the Justice for Animals campaign came into action. The goals of this health camp was to prevent more animals being born and to attend to their general health – skin condition and rabies vaccinations and even feeding them – all of which was done by their vet team known as “Vets For Future”. Their Project Co-ordinator was Shobha Wijekoon and the project comprised two vets, two assistants, and a few specialist dogcatchers.
While working at the temple, they also covered the city of Anuradhapura, with assistance from the Department of Health in Anuradhapura. In support of the effort, rabies vaccinations for this programme were provided free of charge by the Department of Health in Anuradhapura.
This programme is not only for stray or homeless dogs – who are caught by the dogcatchers – but also for domesticated dogs and cats of people who are unable to afford the cost of taking their pet to a vet or are simply unable to access vet facilities.
The project used to simply be called “Spay & Neuter Clinic”. However, later it was changed to their current name “Animal Health Camp”.
“We realised the street or homeless dogs had many other issues, like skin conditions that needed to be treated; owned dogs were also being brought in for treatments. Additionally, we gave them the rabies vaccines, therefore Animal Health Camp was a more appropriate name,” explained a spokesperson from the project.
While this is basically what is known as a “CNR programme” (catch – neuter – release), they have conducted other services such as providing essential surgeries.
The greatest challenge is getting adequate funds to cover the cost of these programmes. They are currently funded by donations. However, what they have right now is not enough.
“We could carry out many more (programmes) and reduce the stray dog population and also reduce the occurrence of rabies/rabid dog bites if we receive adequate donations,” the spokesperson said.
If anyone wants to donate or help them out, there are more than enough ways through which this can be done. Of course, there are the usual cash donations, which can be useful to them as they have to pay the team of vets. Moreover, one can also donate by way of offering lodging, breakfast, lunch, and dinner in locations where the team of vets have to stay overnight. So far, they have even received donations of yoghurt to be given to the animals who have been brought for surgery/treatment.
The cost of treating one dog in a simple way amounts up to around Rs. 1,800, which is quite a large amount considering how many times it must be multiplied in order to help as many dogs as the organisation would like, as of course, it isn’t easy to help these animals without considering the cost.
If anyone would like to make any donations towards the cause, they can contact Animal Health Camp Co-ordinator Tashiya Captain on 0777 389 009.