Nov 02, 2023 International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (ICAWC) 2023
Approximately twenty-five years ago, the Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom began organizing annual conferences, now generally abbreviated as ICAWC (standing for the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference), in different Eastern European cities. The Dogs Trust 2016 Annual Report explains that these conferences share ideas and best practices on animal care and rescue and document the ups and downs of running animal welfare schemes worldwide. The first ICAWC was organized in Vravrona, Greece, just east of the Athens International Airport, in 1996. This year (2023), ICAWC was held in the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia, Cyprus.
The ICAWC conferences usually provide exposure for an animal rescue or shelter close to the conference. In Cyprus, ICAWC registrants could visit 2nd Chance Dogs, an organization Cypriots Doris Karayianni and her husband Marios Papadimas launched to provide rescued dogs with a haven for physical and mental recovery. Doris and Marios initially connected via their mutual love of dogs (Doris had Tyson, a small rescue, while Marios had rescued an emaciated German Shepherd named Rex). The two soon found themselves running a shelter for rescued street dogs in Cyprus.
The two founders had the passion and the skills to develop a successful rescue in Cyprus – a challenging country. Approximately one million people live on the island of around 10,000 sq km. However, Cyprus is a politically divided island, with the southern two-thirds of the island controlled by the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus while the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus controls the northern third with a United Nations-controlled buffer zone. The island also hosts two major British military bases in the Greek area. In other words, an animal rescue organization operating in Cyprus must generate the resources to support itself and have international peacekeeping skills to rescue roaming animals in different political regions.
According to Doris and Marios, when they began their rescue operation, they tried to rescue every stray dog but soon discovered that an overcrowded facility undermined their efforts to provide the necessary enrichment and to find forever homes for the rescued animals. Unstressed and socialized dogs were far more likely to be successfully rehomed. Doris and Marios successfully adjusted their operation and leveraged their financial and computer skills to generate the resources to support the shelter.
ICAWC also distributes the “Clarissa Baldwin Award for Excellence in Animal Welfare.” Baldwin joined the National Canine Defence League in 1974 and was the CEO of the Dogs Trust from 1986 until her retirement in October 2014. During her 28 years as CEO, Baldwin grew the annual income of the Dogs Trust from a little over one million pounds to 80 million pounds and oversaw the organization’s rebranding as the Dogs Trust in 2003. In 2023, the Clarissa Baldwin Award went to John Dalley of the Soi Dogs Foundation in Thailand. However, the tribute to John celebrates two people, John and his late wife Gill, who “retired” to Phuket in 2003 and built the Soi Dog Foundation into a global street dog force. In 2023, the Soi Dog Foundation reached a spay/neuter milestone, having sterilized over one million dogs and cats since 2003. The organization currently sterilizes around 20,000 dogs and cats monthly. In partnership with the Dogs Trust, the Soi Dog Foundation runs an animal sterilization project in Bangkok where Soi Dog teams have sterilized 300,000 dogs and cats. If one includes the efforts of private veterinary clinics in Bangkok, an estimated half a million animals have been spayed and neutered in the city since 2016. The density of dogs on the streets of Bangkok has dropped by around 50%, while the percentage of dogs showing visible signs of being cared for by humans (e.g., wearing a collar) has doubled to 68%.
The Soi Dog/Dogs Trust project in Bangkok was not the only “good news” presentation by speakers at the conference. WellBeing International gave one of the plenary talks, outlining a global blueprint for ending dog (and cat) homelessness. Dr. Sanjay Singh, a veterinarian from Help in Suffering in Jaipur, India, demonstrated with data from the Help in Suffering clinic that one could avoid using routine antibiotic treatments post-sterilization surgery if one followed adequate aseptic technique. Samantha Green and Dr. Medagoda of the Dogstar Foundation in Sri Lanka discussed how multimodal analgesia techniques benefited the patients, the veterinary staff, and their organizations. Benjamin Howitt of Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS – now a subsidiary of Dogs Trust since March 2023) described the work of WVS on the Galapagos, where domestic cats and dogs pose threats to the unique wildlife on the islands.
ICAWC started as a conference for Eastern European animal rescuers and organizations but has evolved into a global forum of presentations by speakers from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas featuring and sharing ideas and best practices on animal care and rescue.
View the presentation by Dr. Andrew N. Rowan on a Global Blueprint for Ending Dog and Cat Homelessness.