I am not an animal lover by anyone’s definition nor stretch of imagination. I would never hurt an animal, of course, but probably the only reason I’d ever pet your cat would be to gently push it away from me. And if it’s a dog you have, I’m probably only interacting with it so that my kids don’t grow up afraid of them like I did.
So while I don’t love animals, I do absolutely love what the Ligue pour la Protection des Animaux de Dakar (‘LPA’, formerly the Animal Rescue League or ARL) is doing.
To be honest, before I visited their stand at the Dakar Farmers Market a few years ago and chatted with co-founder Vicky Van Gemert, I thought LPA did three things:
1) guilt people into adopting street animals,
2) help rescue and rehabilitate injured animals,
3) guilt expats leaving the country who could not take their pets with them.
Boy did I have it all wrong.
Tell me about your projects. What exactly is it that LPA does?
There are three areas we really want to focus on. First, sterilization of street animals to fight overpopulation. Second, we vaccinate against rabies – and there is a rabies problem in Senegal. Third, we want to engage local communities and encourage them to care for their animals.
We have been a registered association since 2015 so we are allowed to receive funding and carry out our projects.
So how does LPA care for animals in these rescue situations?
We find the animals, feed them and sterilize them when possible. But we make a point to take the time to educate as we go. As soon I stop the car to check on an animal, people gather wanting to help. We take the opportunity to engage those around us and show them practical ways they can help by giving water to street animals or instead of putting leftover ceeb (rice) in a bag in the garbage, they can put it out where animals can find it more easily and not have to hunt for it, nor ingest the plastic.
When someone near the animal isn’t able to take responsibility for them, what do you do?
Well we do try first, as you said, to find someone locally who can care for the animal. In some cases, LPA can help supply a responsible person with food for the animal. Or if it’s a baby animal that needs needs milk, we can help with that too and teach them how to do the feeding. But our real mission is to address animals on the street, overpopulation, rabies and education.
Tell me about your sterilization campaigns.
We partners with local veterinarians to trap, neuter, release (called ‘TNR’) and vaccinate as many animals as they can. Every so often, as we can, we sponsor a mass sterilization and rabies vaccination campaign across the city, which costs upwards of 2,000,000 CFA ($3,500 USD). We work with some excellent vets here in Dakar to do this and we rely on fundraising events, like this bake sale, or donations.
We also work in the outlying suburbs like Malika and Dalifort and go as far as Thies and Saly to assist people and bring animals to Dakar for treatment, vaccinations and sterilizations.
I really thought that the main thing LPA did was find homes for animals, but it seems like that’s not the case.
Yes, we are much more than a pet adoption agency. It’s a side effect of what we do, but not the primary focus. In fact we encourage people not to pick up animals and bring them to ARL but care for the animals themselves. We want the animals to stay where they are, but be cared for well by their owners or the community.
But when we come across animals that have been abandoned, injured or where the mother no longer feeds her young for some reason, we rescue and foster these animals and try to find them good homes. All rescued animals are vaccinated and sterilized as soon as possible and before adopted out.
So what is your advice to those in Dakar who are considering adopting a pet from LPA?
If you can’t take it with you when you leave Senegal, don’t take it in the first place. Many of the dogs and cats living on the street were abandoned or ‘left with a friend’.
But if you are wanting to adopt, please do contact us. We want to make adopting a pet as do-able as possible.
And if someone already has a pet?
Please, please be sure to have it sterilized and vaccinated – at least against rabies. It may seem like a big expense, but when you consider how quickly we spend 50,000 CFA on other things without blinking… It’s an investment that is worth the cost.
What does LPA need at this point to be able to carry out its mission?
We need cooperation from authorities, particularly the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health, to stop the poisoning of dogs on streets. When the population of street dogs gets too large in a neighborhood, people complain to the chef de quartier who can send a request to have the animals poisoned. But this is not a solution! The poisoned food is left out in the streets where pets can eat it, as well as animals we at LPA have already sterilized and vaccinated that we are tracking and caring for. This is just money down the drain for nothing.
What are your current, immediate needs from the community?
We need people to take dog food to the guards at the Sheraton Hotel construction site in Almadies. There are several adult dogs there who are recovering from recent injuries and/or sterilizations and need food. On this site, there are also five puppies who are about two months old who need foster and permanent families. Also, there is a nursing mother and 11 puppies who are just a week old who need a garden to live in until they can be weaned and adopted.
There’s an ill and pregnant cat who was recently rescued and is recovering at the vet. We need a safe place for her to continue to recover and deliver then nurse her kittens when they are born.
Finally, the LPA community has been watching out for/feeding a mother dog in Plateau. She needs continued care.
What about your ongoing needs? What can we do to help LPA?
Food donations are definitely needed Maybe when you do your monthly shopping, just add a box of dog food or croquettes then drop them off at one of our donation sites around town. If even ten people a month did this, that would be huge for us.
We can always use old towels, old sheets, animal carriers…
And we also need foster families for rescued animals. There are some great Senegalese young men who really have a heart to help the animals of Dakar that we are helping to be foster parents, but we need more people like this to help us.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and for clarifying what it is LPA does and does not do. You guys are taking on a tremendous challenge and we appreciate what you are doing for the animals of Dakar, and for the next generation.
Thank you. It feels good to know that the community is taking animal welfare seriously.
One final question, are there vets you’d like to recommend?
There are many good vets in Dakar. We, of course, do not know all of them, but here are the names of the vets that we have working relationships with and without whom LPA would not be able to do the work we do:
Dr Gabi Fall – Plateau – 33 821 9497
Dr Anna Diop – Hann Mariste – 33 832 5671
Dr Annabella Ndiaye – Sacre Coeur 3 – 77 630 6349
Dr Abdoulaye Cisse – Mamelles – 77 645 2889
Dr Medoune Kassé – 77 256 3815