Dear Editors

My name is Hayley Walters and I am the Welfare and Anaesthesia veterinary nurse at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. I am based within the school’s international animal welfare education centre and spend a lot of time teaching and working in low- to middle-income countries. My colleagues and I in Edinburgh and Sri Lanka recently read with great interest the article by British veterinary nurse Katie Knight on the work of WECare Worldwide, a UK charity working in Sri Lanka. While we applaud Ms Knight’s enthusiasm and passion, we would like to correct a number of factual errors and misleading impressions that the article conveys.

While Ms Knight has spent some time in Sri Lanka, it seems that this experience has not deepened her understanding of Sri Lankan people, the veterinary profession, or of veterinary education there, and it would be a shame if her limited experience was used to reflect the entire Sri Lankan veterinary profession and people.

We were disappointed to see that Ms Knight uses negative, sweeping generalisations such as “The people of Sri Lanka do not currently see dogs the same way that we do; they are not seen as pets, but more of a nuisance or vermin” to portray often complex relationships between animals and humans. Staff from the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education at the University of Edinburgh have recently developed a partnership with the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and with local veterinary clinics and NGOs there. Our experience of working in Sri Lanka was that many people cared very deeply about their pets, would queue for a long time to be seen and then sit with their animals for hours as they received intravenous fluid therapy or visit them when they were hospitalised. We saw local people bring in stray dogs that had been run over and pay for the veterinary treatment themselves, and if they couldn’t, then the veterinary practice treating would often absorb the costs. Obviously, in every country, there are people who care about dogs and people who don’t, but it is not helpful or accurate to portray an entire nation as one way or another.

Considering the recent history of Sri Lanka, it is unsurprising that “time is spent training local vets as basic knowledge is lacking” as the 4.5-year Veterinary Science programme is not yet comparable with the 5-year courses commonly offered in the UK. Despite this, however, around 35% of vets that graduate from The University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka’s only vet school) are working overseas, including in the UK, Australia and USA. This is a very good measure to justify clinical competencies of veterinary graduates of Sri Lanka. In addition, the Faculty at Peradeniya are currently working with Massey University in New Zealand to further develop the veterinary curriculum, and also with the University of Edinburgh in the UK to develop a veterinary nursing programme and to develop CPD courses on dog and cat population management, behaviour, and clinical care. Additionally, staff at local veterinary practices are keen to engage in CPD.

Recognising the passion and determination of veterinary professionals and animal care staff in Sri Lanka is essential in developing constructive partnerships and we were surprised that the Sri Lankan members of the WECare team shown in the photograph in her article were not acknowledged – only the “voluntary vets and nurses … from the UK, Europe and Australia”

Overall we’d discourage the approach of focusing on the welfare problems seen in countries outside of the UK, and applauding the work being done by foreign vets and volunteers, without giving further context to the recent history and cultural complexities that may have influenced these issues. All countries, including the UK, have problems of animal welfare, and styling ourselves as champions of animal welfare while promoting negative perceptions of an entire country or its people towards animals is both overly simplistic and inaccurate. We’d suggest instead that WECare Worldwide and other NGOs working overseas focus on developing mutually beneficial partnerships with in-country organisations and institutions, to better understand the often subtle and complex factors influencing the role and place of animals in a particular society, and to develop cooperative and societally relevant solutions to those problems.

Hayley Walters RVN

Welfare and Anaesthesia Veterinary Nurse

Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare


The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies,

The University of Edinburgh,

Easter Bush Campus,

Roslin, Midlothian,

EH25 9RG


Heather J. Bacon BSc (Hons) BVSc CertZooMed MRCVS Veterinary Welfare Education & Outreach Manager 

Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education,

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies,

University of Edinburgh,

Easter Bush Campus,

Roslin, Midlothian,

EH25 9RG

Samantha Green 

Country Director

Dogstar Foundation NGO – FL149016, Sri Lanka

Eranda Rajapaksha BVSc, MS, PhD, DACVB, DACAW 

Senior Lecturer,

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, 

University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 32 • July 2017