On the third day of the project, with over 650 vaccinations done in the first two days, I went out vaccinating with the team from the WVS International Training Centre in Ooty, Tamil Nadu - our sister charity, who send their expert animal handlers and vets on rotation to our programme to assist with the vaccination work.
These guys are truly incredible to watch, with amazing teamwork and lightning reflexes, meaning that the most difficult to handle dogs are safely and humanely restrained and vaccinated. And this area has a lot of difficult to catch dogs because of the presence of a large open garbage dump, where many free-roaming dogs come to feed on the profusion of food waste every day.
The international volunteers got to see a side of Goa that few tourists do as they entered the garbage dump - finding many dogs, and even cows, feasting on the discarded leftovers.
The animal handlers got to work, surrounding and catching several dogs for a swift vaccinate-mark-data collect-release process that usually takes under 30 seconds per dog. However, many dogs escaped their efforts due to the difficult environment to work in - the large area with many escape routes for the dogs to take and impossible access due to the danger of crossing the open waste site. Besides the large amount of mixed waste, the team also found hospital waste discarded in the dump, rather than being incinerated.
This highlighted the important point made by the Chief Minister of Goa at our opening ceremony on Monday - that management of the dog population through vaccination and sterilisation of dogs needs to go hand in hand with good management of solid waste - otherwise the issues of dogs roaming on the streets in search of food and potentially causing problems for local people, will persist.
Despite the tricky catching environment, the team managed to vaccinate over 80 dogs by breakfast - a mixture of free-roaming and unowned dogs, as well as visiting each house to vaccinate owned dogs, as they worked towards the target minimum 70% vaccination cover that means the area is protected against rabies for another year.
Great job, Dr Navas, Sam and team!