Baghdad, Iraq (June 30th, 2010)
Iraq’s chief veterinarian has told news agencies that authorities intend to kill up to 1 million stray dogs in Baghdad alone.
During the rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s authorities sent veterinary teams out to kill stray dogs on a nightly basis. Since the fall of his regime, for several years the lack of security and threat of violence has prevented these teams from patrolling Iraq’s capital Baghdad. During this time, the stray dog population has exploded to the point where almost 1 million stray dogs are thought to be living in the capital alone – a population density that is the equivalent to Washington, D.C., having almost 100,000 stray dogs roaming the streets. Locals are blaming the dogs for an increase in litter and animal waste around the capital’s streets, as well as increase in disease among humans and domestic animals.
Now, as violence on the streets subsides, authorities have begun trying to tackle the over-population problem again. Twenty 4-person teams are now in action every night, consisting of 2 vets and 2 armed marksmen. As dogs are shot or poisoned, they are loaded into tractor trailers in their masses and transported to Baghdad’s refuse tip. This “public service” is costing the mayor’s office 35 million Iraqi dinars ($30,000). The process of reducing the stray dog population to a “manageable” level is expected to take approximately a year.
“We could consider this the biggest campaign of dog execution ever,” Baghdad chief veterinarian Mohammed al-Hilly told Reuters. He said the campaign had so far killed 42,000 dogs since it started two months ago – of which more than half were poisoned. “This can be considered a victory,” he continued.
The local authorities are not the only organization attempting to tackle the stray dog population. “Operation Baghdad Pups” is a program run by the SPCA International, in which U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan befriend local animals as a way to help cope with the emotional hardships they endure every day while deployed in a war zone. The Operation Baghdad Pups program provides veterinary care and coordinates complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these beloved pets with their service men and women back in the U.S.
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Surrey, United Kingdom (June 30th, 2010)
A cat who lost his feet in a nearly deadly accident has been given a pair of prosthetic limbs.
Oscar the cat’s hind paws were lost when they were chopped off by a combine harvester while he was sunbathing last October. The two year-old cat has been given a pair of artificial feet in a single surgical procedure, something which has never been done before by any team anywhere in the world, by neuro-orthopedic surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick and his team at Fitzpatrick Referrals in England. Following the accident, Oscar’s life-threatening injuries had to be treated before he was considered for surgery to fit prosthetic limbs.
“We had to do a lot of soul-searching and our main concern has always been whether this operation would be in Oscar’s best interests and would give him a better quality of life,” explained Kate. Her husband Mike continues, “Through our own background reading, we were aware that this sort of procedure is cutting-edge and also has an impact on human medicine, so knowledge about the way that Oscar’s been treated can be carried over to human treatment going forward, so that’s good for everyone.”
In a three-hour operation, the veterinary surgical team had to insert implants to “peg” the ankle to the foot by drilling into one of the ankle bones in each of the back legs. The artificial implants which are attached to the bone at an amputation site are coated with hydroxyapatite, which encourages bone cells to grow onto the metal. The skin then grows over the special umbrella at the end of the ITAP to form a resilient seal against bacteria and potentially fatal infections. The ITAP itself protrudes through the bone and skin, allowing the custom-built artificial paws to be securely attached. Full limb amputation is frequently the standard in cases of trauma victims such as Oscar, who have experienced irreversible vascular or neurological damage to limbs. While such procedures are common in both humans and animals, post-amputation complications still arise when stump-socket strap-on limbs are used.
Following successful surgery on 13th November 2009, the focus of the veterinary team has turned to the slow process of rehabilitation and helping Oscar to learn to walk again – firstly using external scaffolding anchored to the tibia for five weeks to protect the new implants until the ITAPs integrated into the bone and also the skin grew onto the ITAP. Remarkably Oscar was trying to stand within a day of the operation and despite some problems with infection that had to be overcome, in less than four months Oscar could stand and bear weight equally on all four limbs. He has since been fitted with a series of prototype new paws to ensure the best possible long term fit.
Picture courtesy Wild Productions Ltd.
Video: Oscar the Bionic Cat
Doctors Perspective Video: bionic cat video
400 Cats Rescued… Please Donate to Help
On June 24, members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team joined the Elk County Humane Society of St. Mary’s, PA, and other rescue groups to investigate a “sanctuary” known as the Animal Friends of Elk and Cameron Counties. Nearly 400 cats—including numerous kittens—were discovered living in desperate conditions on the first floor of a two-story commercial building located 120 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Many were suffering from health problems, including upper respiratory disease and eye infections, and have tested positive for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
“This was one of the worst cases of animal hoarding this area has seen,” says Tim Rickey, ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response. “With such a large number of rescued animals, it is critical that we find them loving homes as soon as possible.”
After receiving critical medical attention with the aid of the ASPCA’s Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, the cats were placed into the custody of the Elk County Humane Society. They are currently being cared for by a team of animal welfare experts at an emergency shelter.
“We are grateful to be in a position to provide resources and assistance in this overwhelming situation,” says Rickey. “Our goal now is to get these animals into the loving homes they deserve.”
While these cats are now safe, there are many other animals who are still suffering. Please consider providing a gift to the ASPCA this Independence Day so we can reach the thousands of abused and neglected animals who will need our help in the days, weeks and months ahead.