Emma Wilson - vet nurse on Kos, 2018
I am a vet nurse from the UK and have previously travelled and volunteered at various animal charities abroad. I worked for GASAH for two and a half months from August 2018 and think it is a great charity doing amazing work to help the animals on Kos island.
One of the many things I like about GASAH is it recognises the importance not only treating the sick animals but trying to prevent disease and suffering before it happens through sterilisation, vaccination, education projects for schools and working with local people.
For example many dogs are kept on short chains and cows are often seen tethered without access to shade or water. GASAH has worked with some farmers and provided solar fences to allow cows more freedom to move to shaded areas and access water troughs. With the dogs GASAH has helped with sterilisations, parasite treatments, medical care, and explaining the importance of daily exercise for dogs. In most cases, with help people are keen to provide better living conditions for their animals, however in cases of deliberate abuse or neglect GASAH will inform the police and has many ongoing court cases for animal cruelty.
Anyone visiting Kos will notice how many cats there are! An unsterilized female cat can have an average of 15 kittens a year. This means the following year, if her kittens also have kittens there will be 120 cats! Such a high population facilitates the spread of disease and parasites so many will suffer and die. I saw an abundance of cats infected with cat flu on Kos which is a highly contagious. In some cases cat flu can lead to chest infections, mouth ulcers, and eye problems which untreated can become very painful and cause blindness.
One of the most difficult parts of the job is it being impossible to help every animal. It is important to assess every case individually as bringing any new animal into the shelter causes stress and an increased risk of disease. As a result this could be more damaging or compromise the welfare of the other animals currently in our care. Therefore wherever possible we recommend simple treatments such as eye drops to be given where the cat is already living.
To minimise disease risk GASAH has separate areas to house cats, everything is cleaned and disinfected to a high standard and there are strict quarantine protocols for new arrivals. Dogs have access to indoor kennels, large runs, a field to play in and is surrounded by countryside and numerous paths where they are taken for walks. Many of the dogs play in small groups and meet many different people so they are well stimulated and socialised resulting in well behaved and happy dogs.
The best part of working at Stepping Stone is seeing the change in the animals as they recover from illness, gain weight and become more confident. Seeing dogs who are very nervous or have been abused wag their tail for the first time, or begin to interact with you and other animals is an amazing feeling and I am so grateful GASAH has been able to be there to help them.
I met many hardworking, dedicated people during my time at GASAH. Volunteers come from many different parts of the world, all with a common interest in helping animals. The people at GASAH definitely make it a fun, enjoyable place to work and make many new friends.