Looking After Morocco's Beasts of Burden

SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) was founded in the 1920s by two British women, Kate Hosali and her daughter Nina, who were visiting North Africa and appalled at the maltreatment of the region's animals. Today, the British-registered charity operates more than 50 veterinary centers and mobile clinics throughout Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and South America, and treats more than 300,000 animals annually.

SPANA has been working in Morocco since 1925, and today this work covers a broad spectrum of issues, such as providing free veterinary care to working animals, training Moroccan student vets, educating local schoolchildren (and often their teachers) on environmental matters, and providing a mobile veterinary unit that regularly travels to the High Atlas village of Imlil to care for tourist-trekking mules.

In Marrakech, SPANA has recently installed a number of water troughs at strategic points throughout the city, helping to combat the many cases of equine dehydration that occur especially during the hot summer months. The troughs are cleaned and refilled twice daily by a mobile "water bowser." Also in Marrakech, SPANA operates an educational center with an animal refuge and veterinary hospital, which is open to the public. The center, SPANA's largest in the country, has information about their work; interactive displays showing the link between the environment, animals, and humans; and a steady stream of patients in its busy clinic.

The center issues licenses to calèche drivers and implants a microchip into each horse's neck to effectively track its medical history. Unhealthy horses are issued a ticket, and a second consecutive ticket results in the horse being admitted as a patient -- ensuring only the fit are working on the street. An annual ceremony each May applauds those who care for their horses. This is a great day to visit the center, but visitors can drop in at any time. The center is located in the suburbs at Cité Mohammadi, Daoudiat. All calèche drivers should know where it is. Most staff members are non-English speaking, so to ensure that Mohammed Faifaite, the highly likeable English-speaking technician, is available, call tel. 0524/303110, or contact the center via e-mail by visiting www.spana.org.

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