The haves and have-nots: Vet care a luxury for many working equines

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World Animal Day is marked this Sunday, October 4, and an animal charity is using the day to highlight the huge disparity in access to veterinary care between the world’s developing countries and higher-income nations.

Working animal charity Spana (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) says a vast number of animals in developing countries are suffering in silence because of a severe shortage of veterinary services. It is in stark contrast to countries such as Britain and New Zealand and other more affluent countries.

For example, in Zimbabwe, one of the many locations in which the charity works, there are only 340 veterinarians serving the entire country. Tanzania, which has a population of more than 56 million people, only has about 725 vets, and Mauritania – the 28th largest country in the world in size – has only 127 working vets. In comparison, there are 2475 working vets in New Zealand, and Britain has more than 25,000 working vets treating the country’s pets and animals.

A horse receives veterinary treatment from the Spana team in Ethiopia.
A horse receives veterinary treatment from the Spana team in Ethiopia. © Spana/Dylan Thomas Photography

Spana is tackling this inequality and reaching animals in urgent need wherever it can. Last year, the charity provided free veterinary treatments to more than 388,000 working animals, including donkeys, horses, mules, camels and elephants in some of the world’s poorest communities. Through a network of veterinary centres and mobile clinics in more than 25 countries, Spana is treating sick and injured animals that would otherwise have no veterinary assistance available to them.

The charity is also expanding veterinary capacity in many places. In 2019, Spana trained 4387 veterinary professionals around the world, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to provide essential treatment to many more animals.

In addition to access to care, affordability is another key issue. Households in Britain, for instance, spent £4.8 billion on veterinary and other services for their pets in 2019. In contrast, most families in impoverished communities overseas simply cannot afford to pay for veterinary treatment.

Spana Chief Executive Geoffrey Dennis said it was easy to take for granted the ease of access to veterinary care that animal owners enjoy in higher-income countries.

“The sad reality is that, in many developing countries, there simply aren’t enough vets to treat the vast numbers of animals that need assistance. Working animals are some of the most neglected – they perform vital roles in the poorest communities, but their welfare is often very poor and there is usually no veterinary care available to help them,” he said.

“Even if vet services did exist, families that struggle to earn a basic income would be unable to afford the treatment.

“It’s a very telling fact that 99 per cent of the world’s equine vets treat less than 10 per cent of equids – and horses, donkeys and mules overseas are often totally overlooked.”

Spana chief executive Geoffrey Dennis: "The sad reality is that, in many developing countries, there simply aren’t enough vets to treat the vast numbers of animals that need assistance."
Spana chief executive Geoffrey Dennis: “The sad reality is that, in many developing countries, there simply aren’t enough vets to treat the vast numbers of animals that need assistance.”

He said Spana’s vet teams encounter working animals in desperate need of help every day. Their vets work tirelessly to offer a lifeline to animals and owners, who would have no options without the free treatment they provide.

“I am proud of the difference we make to the lives of thousands of working animals around the world. But, there are still countless others that are suffering – and with everyone’s support we give even more animals access to the lifesaving veterinary care they need,” Dennis said.

Spana believes that all animals deserve the right to high-quality veterinary care, and is asking for support on World Animal Day to ensure that no animal has to endure pain and suffering.

 

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