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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Volunteering in Goa

Kym Barratt reports on her experiences

As I sat on the plane to Goa on break from University I came across a piece in the Lonely Planet guide on International Animal Rescue’s centre at Assagao. As I am studying Animal Science and have an interest in animal welfare I decided to pay them a visit. With rather naïve and preconceived ideas, I thought I would witness poor accommodation, hygiene standards and a lack of compassion for the animals. I was therefore delighted to walk into the centre to be confronted by a big play pen full of plump puppies wagging their tails, breaking off from their lunch of milk, rice and eggs to get some fuss and attention.

A Dutch veterinary student who had been volunteering at the centre showed me round the purpose built kennels that house 87 dogs and explained about the centres mission to sterilise, vaccinate and treat the wounds and illnesses of the many stray dogs and cats. The adult dogs were also happily tucking into their very appealing lunch of rice, meat and vegetables. It was obvious that the kennels were regularly cleaned, they had soft rubber matting for bedding, water always available and detailed record cards on the doors gave a full history of where the dog came from, its medical treatment, dietary requirements and exercise routine.

After I left I thought I would also like to offer some of my time as a volunteer, but was concerned how I would fit it in with my studies. On returning to University I discussed the possibility with my tutor of gearing my final year thesis round the centres work and between us came up with the idea of comparing animal welfare organisations in Goa with those in the UK. So on August 16th 2003 I flew back to Goa for five weeks to volunteer at the centre and conduct research for my thesis. In that time I helped with many tasks. I cared for the puppies and kittens, comforting and playing with them, helping at meal times as well as de-worming and de-fleaing. Most of the dogs really look forward to their walks and there was never enough time to give them all the exercise they needed. However many dogs were just too nervous, so an important task was just to sit with them, talk to them and reassure them. It was a very satisfying experience when a dog started to trust and respond to you.

But my most unexpected task and yet in many ways most rewarding was to audit and re-write the centre’s quality manual and prepare job descriptions for the centre’s 11 employees, something I had experience of in industry before I became a student, thereby creating a working document of how the centre should be run and ensuring that the high standards are maintained.

I am currently researching the UK element to my thesis which has to be submitted in April 2004, after which, who knows, I could be going back to Goa!