The work we do here at SPCA International acknowledges that animals do not know the borders humans have drawn on maps. They don’t understand politics, nor do they discriminate based on region or country. At the end of the day, animals simply want what we want: a safe space, love and food security.
Having worked in the global community for ten years, I know each area of the world we serve will have two things: a like-minded community of animal welfare advocates, and a set of challenges unique to that community or region. The first will be the solution to figuring out the second. Often, we set out to solve an existing problem, such as access to affordable veterinary care, humane population control (spay and neuter) or adoption advocacy. The best way for our team to learn how to approach these issues is by observing and collaborating with the local community.
Most countries have similar problems when it comes to animal welfare issues. Overpopulation, unaffordable care and abundant cruelty are some of the most common problems I see in my work. At SPCA International, our number one priority is often to bring awareness and education about how animals affect community health, because unwanted animal populations and communicable diseases often lead to cruelty born out of fear.
To understand how to approach these systemic issues, we first reach out to the people doing the work on the ground. By building and establishing connections we learn how to best work within the local system. For example, in 2014 I had the opportunity to testify at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on the issue of hare-coursing with Galgos (Spanish greyhounds). We learned from our partners that the animal cruelty these animals are victims of is illegal, but that the existing laws are not enforced. With a deeper understanding and appreciation of local culture and communication styles, we are able to create a positive and respectful dialogue with government officials and key decision makers.
Ultimately, we want new community partners to know we are there to help and support their existing efforts. By bringing a global perspective, we can recommend methods that have worked in other places and help adapt processes to best fit the outcomes we all want to see – building better, safer communities for humans and animals to live in harmony.