Underdogs Sri Lanka was created to give a second chance to strays in need of support. Set in an area where the signs of civil war are still affecting the community, Underdogs Sri Lanka is completely devoted to improving the lives of street and beach dogs in the North East of Sri Lanka. Their focus is the rescue, rehabilitation, sterilisation, vaccination, and rehoming of strays in urgent need.
Located on the beautiful coast of Nilaveli, Sri Lanka, Underdogs Sri Lanka fosters only a small number of rescue dogs at the centre. The rescue centre also serves as a clinic space for mass sterilisations, as well as a rehabilitation centre for treatment of stray dogs as needed.
Brunch spoke to Underdogs Sri Lanka Founder Elisabetta Mancuso to learn more about this thoughtful initiative.
Sharing her journey with Underdogs Sri Lanka, Elizabeth told us that she came to Sri Lanka for summer and stayed because she met her partner with whom she eventually opened up a beach property down in Trincomalee.
This is where inspiration for Underdogs Sri Lanka began; “We started seeing a lot of stray dogs wandering the beach. They began to come into the restaurant and begged to eat the food,” she stated, which is when she took the initiative to get these dogs vaccinated so as to assure the safety of her customers as well as look into the well-being of the dogs.
When describing how Underdogs Sri Lanka helps with rescuing dogs in need, she explained: “We respond promptly to any stray dog report by providing either on-site medical care or relocation to our centre if needed.”
Most stray dogs roam freely and often sleep on the edge of the road, resulting in accidental injury or death. Unwanted puppies are abandoned on busy roads and often in isolated fields, at times getting attacked by adult dogs protecting their territory. Mancuso told us that owned dogs with severe skin disease are seen as dirty and infectious, and are frequently abandoned as well. “We are committed to helping as many of these dogs as possible with the resources and space we have available.”
Underdogs Sri Lanka also organises different feeding locations and is currently providing food and medical care to more than 50 strays in the local community.
Mancuso added: “We provide medical treatment at our centre and the best possible care from local veterinarians.”
Treatments are carried out by their dedicated team, both on-site and at the centre. When talking about the process of medical care, she told us that they monitor and provide on-going treatment for injuries, parasites, worms, mange and other skin diseases. Treatment of malnourishment is a major focus of their rehabilitation programme. “Currently we are feeding approximately 50 dogs daily, at five different locations. Due to the pandemic, businesses and hotels who regularly provided food to stray dogs were forced to close,” she commented, therefore, they incremented new feeding locations to address an increase in the number of malnourished dogs.
Adopting one dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog. Mancuso told us that all of their fostered dogs are fully vaccinated and sterilised. They are also treated for any illness, parasites, and worms. “Most of our dogs grew up with us in a loving, caring environment, so we expect them to be treated the same way in their new homes,” she shared, adding that their adoption process consists of an initial interview with the adoptee, followed by a home visit to ensure that the new location is a good fit. In the final stage, the team will evaluate the interaction between the dog and new family in the environment. A contract will then be signed, and several random visits conducted to observe the overall well-being of the dog. If the team suspects any type of abuse or neglect, the dog will be removed from the home.
Underdogs Sri Lanka also fosters dogs who have been abandoned at their centre or those who are rescued in urgent need and cannot be reintroduced to their original location. All of their dogs are fully vaccinated and sterilised, depending on age, and most of their fostered dogs have been with them since they were puppies, and are therefore accustomed to much love, attention, and care. She shared: “We are very vigilant regarding their well-being, and make every effort to continuously monitor weight changes, health issues, or behavioural concerns, finding the best and most effective treatment available.”
She also stated that a major focus of their programme is socialisation, with humans as well as with other dogs. “Our workers and volunteers spend countless hours interacting with our dogs, organising stimulating games, and taking them to the beach for group play.”
Underdogs Sri Lanka has recognised the benefit of helping the community form responsible habits towards all animals. Dogs, cats, and other companion animals are a major part of life there, as many families have at least one animal in their home, or interact regularly with animals roaming on the street. Mancuso shared that their goal is to encourage and educate the local population to respect an animal’s freedom; making them aware that all animals have feelings and experience a tremendous amount of stress and depression when caged or chained.