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National Museum of Animals & Society Blog
Yesterday was Labor Day, a U.S. federal holiday which celebrates the economic contributions of America’s workers by giving them a day off. This got me thinking about working animals – police dogs, workhorses, pack mules, and all the others – and how much they contribute to the workforce, not just in our country but the world over. My musings and Google searchings led me to SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), a U.K.-based charity founded in 1923.
Started by a mother and daughter after witnessing the mistreatment of working animals while on a tour of North Africa, SPANA works in some of the world’s poorest countries to offer assistance and free veterinary care to working animals, as well as education to the families and drivers who depend on these creatures for their livelihood. By working to help both the animals and their guardians, SPANA not only rescues suffering animals from further mistreatment based on ignorance, they also foster respect and understanding in the people who are often the victims of crushing poverty and hunger themselves.
“Families often rely on their animals for survival and can be devastated if their horse or donkey is ill or injured and unable to work,” SPANA’s website explains. “There is a lot of misunderstanding about how best to treat a suffering animal and in some cases traditional treatments can cause more suffering to an animal. Taking time to speak to owners about the causes of an illness or injury and educate children about animal welfare helps prevent future suffering.”
These days SPANA works primarily in Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Mali, Syria, Mauritania, Ethiopia and Algeria, where their 21 mobile veterinary clinics provided treatment to over 380,000 working animals last year alone. They have done additional outreach in another 25 countries, and have been on the scene to respond to emergencies in Zimbabwe, Chad, Iraq, Kenya and Sudan.
Right now, SPANA is working in East Africa to help stem the effects of the terrible drought which has thrown 12 million people and their animals into crisis. The group has been working hard to provide food to livestock close to starvation in order to prevent a further humanitarian crisis for the famine-ravaged people of Ethiopia and northeast Kenya. “The poor pastoralist communities depend on animals for their livelihoods – for milk, for trade, for transport,” says SPANA. “Without animals their future is bleak.”
You can donate now to SPANA’s African drought relief efforts, or simply take the time to read more about the current situation and SPANA’s work. I think they’re an incredible charity working diligently to save the lives of both animals and people in need of assistance, care, and understanding.