Kate Beattie (L) treats an unfortunately mange-ridden dog. Photograph: Miranda Glasser
A n abandoned female dog in a pitiful state suffering from severe respiratory disease inspired expats Josette Vanneur and Kate Beattie to found Angkor Paws Animal Rescue nearly a year ago.
Angkor Paws assists neglected dogs and cats in Siem Reap, and provides rescue, treatment and neutering services. The project has been largely funded by Vanneur and Beattie, but a recent fundraiser raised $1, 000.
The caring duo first met when Australian veterinary nurse Beattie was contacted by two concerned tourists about a dog spotted opposite a guesthouse that was in a miserable condition and had just given birth to five puppies, who sadly all later died. Animal-lover Vanneur got wind of this and decided it was time to do something “more official” to help Temple Town’s abandoned animals.
“Even though I’m not a medical person I wanted to help, just out of love for animals and seeing their plight,” says French expat Vanneur.
She adds that so many people see miserable dogs and cats in pagodas and have no recourse but to walk away.
Vanneur declares, “Katie and I decided no, we will not walk away. We will do something.”
Long-term, the plan is to continue providing free veterinary treatment, a neutering program, rabies vaccinations, as well as training for local vets assisted by visiting volunteer overseas vet surgeons and nurses.
But for the moment, busy Beattie is pretty much a one-woman, mobile vet service, dividing her time between Angkor Paws and her own business, Siem Reap Veterinary Nurse Services, which helps fund the rescue service.
Lack of medication is also a problem, with Beattie having to make regular trips to Bangkok to source supplies.
But the biggest problem is the lack of a fulltime vet.
“The priority now is to get a fulltime vet here in Siem Reap who can service the expats but also help us,” says Beattie. “We’re quite limited with what we can do at this stage. It’s frustrating.
“I’m learning very quickly how to treat various conditions because there’s nobody else here doing it.”
Beattie says calls come in predominantly from expat teachers or NGO workers, who have spotted an animal near their organisation or school.
“I have a small clinic attached to my house but I’d say at this stage 90 per cent of the cases I’m on my motorbike, which was really interesting during the last floods.”
If a stray animal is rescued it will be temporarily homed – so far the duo has been pretty hands-on, taking in many animals themselves. Beattie recently had 12 dogs living with her, while Vanneur fostered a ‘pagoda cat’ for a month until a permanent home was found.
Since the group’s foundation, eighteen cats and dogs have been rescued and treated. Success stories include Koi, a pup with an eye infection so severe he could barely see. After just two weeks of treatment he was greatly improved. Koi was one of the lucky ones with an owner, a 12-year-old Khmer girl who has now been instructed in how to administer the medicine.
The duo also helped Somneang (meaning ‘lucky’ in Khmer), an abandoned puppy suffering from acute mange. Beattie says around 90 per cent of dogs in Siem Reap are affected by this condition.
With the new funds the pair will now be able to start implementing part of their long-term plan, training a local vet, and a Khmer woman has just started training.
“As far as I know she is going to be the first Cambodian vet nurse in Siem Reap,” Beattie says. “She has had five years’ experience at Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity at Kbal Spean so she is very well-trained in animal handling.
She is our first hands-on, Khmer support staff.”
The other long-term goal is to educate locals about “empathetic and responsible pet ownership” and, in a small way, Beattie feels they’ve succeeded already.
“Over time there are always a lot of children surrounding you and they’ll notice that you’re treating the dog and can see the difference in the dog. Before they might be quite horrible to them in their own way – kicking them or throwing stones – and we see a very big difference in the way that they are with the dogs. I think it starts with the children, it’s a generational thing.”
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