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Stray ‘pagoda cats’ are a common sight at wats
Stray ‘pagoda cats’ are a common sight at wats, but their care often falls to resource-stretched monks and lay people. NICK STREET

Ppaws tackles pagoda strays

At Wat Sansom Kosal, Nou Chamnan picks a small, weepy-eyed young cat and carefully inspects it.

Like most pagodas, the Meanchey district temple is a de facto home for the neighbourhood’s unwanted strays, a place where kitten litters and injured or aged cats and dogs are abandoned in the knowledge that they will get some food. But it is no solution to the problem of sick and malnourished strays, an animal welfare organisation says.

While pagodas traditionally care for vulnerable people and animals, many don’t have the time or resources to protect them all. And at the moment, the practice of neutering animals is almost unheard of in the city.

Enter the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS). A volunteer organisation aimed at protecting the welfare of the city’s cats and dogs, it is raising money to buy and fit out a second-hand van, which it will turn into a mobile spay and neuter clinic, to ease the burden of caring for the animals from the pagoda’s monks.

Chamnan, an assistant vet at Phnom Penh veterinarian Agrovet Cambodia and PPAWS member, said neutering an animal is the single best decision for long-term animal welfare, where the high number of stray street animals are prone to contagious diseases.

“It’s important to neuter animals so that they don’t have problems in the future.

“In pagodas, most of the baby dogs and cats that are born never get enough care, and when they bite each other they pass on diseases which can cause death,” she said.

PPAWS founder Nicola Scales and assistant vet Nou Chamnan check up on a neighbourhood pagoda pooch
PPAWS founder Nicola Scales and assistant vet Nou Chamnan check up on a neighbourhood pagoda pooch. NICK STREET

“We are aiming to raise $10,000 so that we can start looking for a van. Once we’ve got the van, we can start gradually buying more and more equipment, little by little,” Nicola Scales, founder and president of PPAWS, added.

Once the group has enough for the van, it plans to recruit Cambodian assistant vets who have been trained by Agrovet Cambodia. Since it began fundraising four months ago, PPAWS has collected $6,000, half of which has come from Australian Phnom Penh resident Charlie Christie, who has used the crowdfunding website Indiegogo.

“It is also to educate people about why it is so important to desex animals, about animal rights, about how to treat animals respectfully and not to harm them,” Christie said.

PPAWS is looking for more donations for the a mobile vet van, email Nicola Scales at nicola.scales@gmail.com

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