Vida Digna (Life with Dignity): Equine Health Campaigns in the Peruvian Andes
Since 2009, Vida Digna, an animal welfare association based in Lima, Peru, has organized an annual health campaign for horses that work the tourist trails on the Cusco highlands of the Peruvian Andes. This campaign is supported by the US-based animal welfare organization Humane Society International (HSI).
As part of this effort, every year in the month of August, ten American doctors, veterinary students and a professional farrier are sent to Cusco on a two-week mission, bring with them all the necessary medicines and equipment. Together with Vida Digna volunteers and supporters from the NGO Yanapana Peru who provides the logistical support, the team hikes through the rural communities of the Peruvian Andes, providing veterinary services to help horses, mules and donkeys. Every animal receives a treatment of dewormer, vaccinated against rabies and tetanus, and its hoofs and teeth are checked. For those who need it, castrations and minor surgeries are performed, as well as wound dressing.
These animals are essential to the livelihoods of the wranglers who own them, and who rent them out to tourists in order to carry their luggage and equipment on the hiking trails. Before Vida Digna started this program, these animals had never received proper veterinary care. The number of animals treated through the Vida Digna campaigns were 680 in 2009, 707 in 2010, and 740 in 2011.
Additionally, in 2009, Vida Digna volunteers offered courses on animal health at schools in the communities they visited, so the local children could learn the proper way to care for their animals. In 2010 and 2011, students from a Peruvian university also participated in the program, which was a great educational experience for them.
So far, it has been observed that the animals whose owners have been bringing them to all the annual Vida Digna campaings are in much better physical condition than the rest, and therefore, work better. The wranglers have noticed this, and have improved in the care they give their animals.
For more information about Vida Digna, please see: www.vidadigna.org or contact Ms Maria Teresa Guzzinati at mtguzzinati[at]gmail.com.