You are not sure what the morning will come with it. A distress call about an unattended Alsatian dog without a collar roaming in and out of traffic in busy Westlands, a puppy rescued from a hole, thrown in there by a heartless owner and left to die, a litter of bewildered kittens left by the roadside in Kawangware.
Could you take them in, a caller might ask, adding, “They are going to die if you don’t.”
This is a scenario the staff at the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA) deal with daily.
The facility, on Lang’ata Road in Karen, Nairobi, also serves as a shelter for neglected animals and is a sort of ground zero: a place of trauma but also of hope, a centre supported by people who believe that animal life is as sacrosanct as human life.
Some of the rescued animals arrive so traumatized that it takes days before they can learn to trust or respond to a gesture as simple as a pat.
Just like all institutions in the world, this one, too, has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and is not doing as well as it was. The pain is not just being felt by humankind, the animals here are also feeling it.
“We rely on goodwill and donations, and at these uncertain times, we have less volunteers coming in to the shelter, less public coming into the shelter and therefore less re-homing and obviously less donations coming in,” says Ian Kiringa a KSPCA animal welfare officer.
He calls on the public to continue supporting the shelter during this period, while acknowledging that several companies and individuals have donated supplies that have enabled the organization to keep operations running.
“Despite these challenging times, our inspectors and other staff are working hard to rescue and improve the welfare of animals around us as we await better times ahead.”
KSPCA receives around 6,000 calls per year to offer help to animals in distress, and to offer advice to pet owners and also help in re-home rescued animals.
Even in the fairest of circumstances, add that to feeding and staffing and the day-to-day operations, it is a gargantuan task.
The outbreak of Covid-19, first officially reported in Kenya in early March, has thrown a cruel wrench into the works, and the animal body is feeling the aftershocks. While donation cheques and food still stream in, there has been a remarkable dip as more urgent matters take precedence.
Travel restrictions have compounded would-be adoptions. A couple living outside Nairobi’s city centre recently expressed remorse that they could not travel to Karen to collect a pair of puppies they wanted to adopt.
Another challenge cited in pet adoption and animal welfare is a general indifferent attitude toward the pet culture in Kenya. For many, the idea of the small details in pet (especially dog) care is a novelty, a foreign concept.
“As long as my dog can bark at a stranger or intruder, that is enough,” is a common rejoinder among many Kenyans when someone brings up the subject of pets.
In Kenya, most “pets” are left to forage for food in landfills and in trash bins. It is a mindset the KSPCA hopes to rewire.
“We firmly believe that educating younger generations is the best way to raise standards of animal care in the future and encourage schoolchildren to visit the shelter and learn about animal welfare,” part of the KSPCA mission statement reads.
The facility, the only animal welfare charity in Kenya protecting domestic animals from neglect and ill treatment, was founded in 1910 after a group of individuals in Mombasa, chagrined at the mistreatment of oxen, decided to do something about it. Wired deeply in the make-up of the animal rights body is that animal life is sacrosanct.
It is no wonder that in 2019, when Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi unveiled a sweeping plan to summarily exterminate stray dogs wandering the streets of Nairobi and the warrens in informal settlements in the capital, his rationale being the danger the mongrels posed to the health of the people, it was KSPCA that led the frontline in advocating a more humane solution to the (obvious) menace.
Its proposals included encouraging adoption by the general public, sterilisation through spaying and neutering as opposed to killing as a way of reducing the number of strays and feral cats.
The Karen shelter is home to more than 150 dogs. The canines are a motley crew: from identifiable breeds to unidentifiable ones. But they are welcome with open arms. About 90 cats live there too, and so do a few donkeys.
Once animals arrive at the facility, KSPCA, through its Social Media pages, petitions potential owners to claim their pets, while those in severe condition are taken for trauma assessment and treatment and rehabilitation.
A vetting process to assess a prospective new owner precedes the adoption process. This is done to ensure that the animals will be in proper hands. Around 45-50 dogs and 20 cats are re-homed each month.
KSPCA was instrumental in introducing humane slaughter of livestock in Kenya.
Appalled by the way animals suffer in abattoirs, the animal rights body was instrumental in the introduction of a humane slaughter programme promoting the use of captive bolt pistols, a device used for stunning animals before slaughter.
To support KSPCA, use Mpesa Paybill option: Business No: 681727 Account: donation.