Praia de Faro community project
Since 2013, Change For Animals Foundation has been running a unique animal welfare project in Praia de Faro on the South coast of Portugal with our partners, Animais de Rua.
Praia de Faro is a small, natural peninsula, only accessible by a single bridge from the mainland. This unusual geography means that the local animal population is almost completely isolated, with no natural migration - the only movement being through human actions.
The Praia is a very seasonal location and as such, life for the roaming dogs and cats there is extremely variable. During the summer months when the weather is good and thousands of holidaymakers visit, the animals are able to manage. Out of season however, the burden of care falls back to the very poor local fishing community who live there throughout the year.
CFAF’s project on Praia de Faro had two main purposes. Firstly to improve the health and welfare of the animals and support the community so that they could more easily provide the necessary care. Secondly, it was to act as a model that could demonstrate to other organisations how things like assessments, monitoring, evaluation and measuring impacts could be easily incorporated into a project and in doing so, be able to share that meaningful and valuable information with others.
This methodical and scientific approach is something often missing from animal welfare work because is it often seen as complicated and laborious, so this project attempted to demystify the process and make it more accessible. The project would show how to easily capture information about the animal and human community that could be used to see and measure any changes and improvements over time.
For the animals it was necessary to find out more about the population, their diversity, their health and welfare. For the people, it was important to find out about their understanding of and attitudes and behaviours towards the animals.
After a year of assessment and surveying to really understand the location, the animal populations, the community and all the issues affecting them, CFAF began our welfare interventions.
October 2014 CFAF ran a two-week TNR (trap, bueter and release) campaign to vaccinate, sterilise and treat as many cats as possible. In that time the project reached 161 cats - an estimated 74% of the cat population. CFAF also worked with a local university to collect skin and faecal samples to test for the presence of parasites, blood samples to test for zoonotic disease, and reproductive organ samples to test for tumours and other hormone related conditions.
Subsequent follow-up TNR by our local partner organisation, Animais de Rua, reached a further 41 cats achieving a current total of 202 - approximately 98% of the cat population.
The project then focussed on the dog population. Initially CFAF were told that many of the dogs were stray but a full assessment showed that in fact every dog had an owner or carer but many of these owners had taken on ownership after the dog had been abandoned by someone else - a regular occurrence during summer months.
Knowing that this was a poor community and that many of these dogs had never seen a vet, this stage of the project focissed on not only providing health and welfare measures for these dogs through community outreach but also working with local veterinary practices to help build bridges between them and the Praia de Faro community.
In June 2015 the project reached over 107 dogs - an estimated 67% of the dog population.
One of the biggest successes so far is the change in the community in regards to their attitude to their animals. A quote from one of the community leaders said "We are very poor. We love our animals but have had no way of doing the things we know we should be doing. This project is one of the best things to ever happen on Praia de Faro. It has changed the lives of not only the animals here but the people too".
For the next two years CFAF will continue to monitor colonies and ensure cats not already reached will have access to vaccination, sterilisation and treatment. The project will continue to build on the partnerships developed with local vets to ensure all dogs have access to treatment so that owners can continue to properly care for their dogs. CFAF will repeat population counts and community surveys to monitor and measure any improvements and changes. And CFAF will publish all the data about the project so that anyone can have access to the information and replicate the process. Because the more we can show the effectiveness of what we are doing, by gathering the information we need, and presenting and sharing it in a way that shows the impact of what we are doing, the more we can improve the lives of animals and the communities the live with.