Rising demand as A.P.S. appeals for vets

More people used the services of the Animal Protection Society in the first two months of this year with the rising demand putting the spotlight on the organisation’s inadequate staffing levels.

A.P.S. veterinary surgeon Dr Harriet Thornton told the Samoa Observer in response to questions sent through email that the organisation needs more vets and staff in order to expand their services to the public.

Currently, Dr Thornton is the country’s sole resident veterinary surgeon and Danny Samways is the only qualified veterinary nurse who are assisted by three local assistants.

She said this year the A.P.S. has seen a large number of clients – despite their staffing challenges which were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – and did vaccination, deworming and desexing of animals. 

The increasing demand for their services points to a general improvement in the health of Samoa’s animal population, added the veterinary surgeon.

“Since I came to work in Samoa in 2018, I have seen a vast improvement in the health and welfare of our animals community,” she said.

“We have put a lot of work the past couple of years into education surrounding what animals need to be healthy and are so pleased to see the uptake of our services continue to rise despite these difficult times.”

Vets play an important role in the community, according to Dr Thornton and their work is important for the treatment of both domesticated and agricultural animals.

“We also need them to help drive production of animals for food and ensure that the food we are eating is healthy and safe,” she added.

“Vets have a major role in government helping ensure biosecurity at the border and prevent exotic animal diseases entering Samoa. 

“Within human health, vets are here to help prevent the transmission of diseases and parasites from animals to humans. This in turn will improve human population health.”

And due to the absence of qualified veterinary staff, Dr Thornton appealed for understanding as the demand for their services continues to increase.

“Currently our services are restricted by lack of qualified veterinary staff so we are asking for the community to be as patient and understanding of this as possible. 

“We continue to operate our full clinic in Vailima from 9am–3pm Monday to Friday but our outreach and home-visiting services have been reduced as we currently just don’t have available staff to operate them.”

Samoa is not the only nation experiencing a shortage in qualified veterinarians with r Thornton revealing that it is a global problem.

“Around the world there is a global shortage of qualified vets and an ever-increasing animal population,” she said.

“Retention of veterinary staff once qualified is a historic issue as well as increasing recognition of pressure and stressors in the profession. 

“Samoa is no different in this respect, we have always struggled to recruit enough vets to help all the animals and are reliant on volunteers in order to make the service finally viable and accessible to as many people as possible.”

The reopening of Samoa’s international borders would provide some relief for the not-for- profit organisation, as the A.P.S. would welcome back their South Pacific Animals Welfare (S.P.A.W.) partners and resume their free animal vaccination and desexing programmes.

Dr Thornton said they also have a good working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in a bid to improve the services they offer.

The recruitment of more qualified vets will enable the organisation to expand their clinical services and improve their community outreach. Their goal is to reach a manageable, stable and healthy animals population through desexing and preventative healthcare. 

The organisation is also keen to attract young people in Samoa to consider veterinary science as a career and train to become veterinary surgeons, which could see them work both in Samoa and abroad.

The A.P.S. has been running a community education program for the last couple of years on Facebook, television, radio and the newspaper and are keen to expand this in the future. Currently, the organisation is working towards hosting a fundraising event at Faleata Golf Course on Saturday 20 March, which they hope will raise enough funds to purchase essential equipment for the clinic.

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