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Volunteer in Sierra Leone: Making a Difference for Stray Dogs

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Join Our Team: Volunteer in Sierra Leone and Make a Difference for Stray Dogs

Volunteers treat stray dogs in Sierra Leone

It's that time of year again when we begin to start planning our next spay-neuter clinic. This is a five-day long event that happens twice a year - usually in March/April and October/November. CPI is always on the lookout for experienced veterinary surgeons and veterinary technicians (nurses) who would like to volunteer in Sierra Leone alongside a small team of local animal health workers.

On a typical day, team members will be picked up and driven to the surgery site for around 8am. Dogs will already be waiting for surgery, and so once the tents and tables are up, our vet team is able to begin. The work day usually finishes at around 5pm or 6pm.

Throughout the day, an experienced dog catching team will deliver further dogs, and owners will arrive to have their dogs sterilised. As we focus on females, who take longer to sterilise, we are usually able to sterilise around 15 to 20 dogs a day with two surgeons. We hope to improve on this number in future projects as we learn and tweak our processes.

A volunteer vet nurse in Sierra Leone

CPI is the only organisation in Sierra Leone offering free and safe sterilisation services. CPI does not differentiate between owned and unowned dogs as over 90% of dogs roam in the streets, regardless of ownership status. In the street, they mix with other dogs, allowing them to reproduce and catch diseases.

All dogs arriving at our spay-neuter event are provided with sterilisation surgery, a rabies vaccine, worming, tick/flea treatment and any other necessary veterinary care. Volunteers usually find some interesting and challenging cases that they would not get the chance to see in their own country.

During their visit, volunteer veterinary professionals may also have the opportunity to provide training to a select number of Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) and Ministry of Agriculture employees. Previous training topics have included sterility and anaesthetic protocol.

Once the day is over, people usually head out for a sundowner drink and dinner at one of the many beach bars and restaurants.

CPI Volunteers at Tokeh Beach Sierra Leone

Freetown has plenty to offer visitors: our volunteers make use of their free days lazing on some of the best beaches in West Africa, visiting Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, staying on Banana and/or Tasso Islands, taking a tuk-tuk tour or shopping for fabrics at the many markets in town.

Here's what Hugh Duffin, a veterinary surgeon from the UK with over thirty years of experience as a vet, had to say about his trip to volunteer with us in March 2023: "Excellent support and accommodation, excellent food / restaurants and plenty to do in down time. Stress-free travel due to clear instructions and expectations, every part of the trip was clearly planned and plans were fluid enough to cope with any changes. I felt safe during the whole trip. I gained a sense of achievement, having challenged myself clinically in such a good cause. A great team, very supportive and so kind to each other. A beautiful, friendly country with such welcoming local communities. A great way to experience another country that wasn't on my radar."

Veterinary volunteers in Sierra Leone 2023
March 2023 Spay-Neuter Team

FAQs For Vets and Vet Nurses Wanting To Volunteer With Stray Dogs in Sierra Leone

How much does it cost? CPI does not charge people to volunteer. Volunteers must cover their own flights and expenses during the trip. Accommodation is usually provided to volunteers for free. A rough ballpark for someone flying from the UK would be approximately £2000 to cover the whole trip. You'll need to factor in the cost of flights, specialist vet travel insurance, visa ($80), airport transfers to Freetown by boat ($90 return fixed cost), mandatory airport fee ($50), vaccinations, anti-malarials, meals, trips and entertainment.

Is it safe?

Sierra Leone, in general, is as safe as other West African countries of a similar size. On the whole, people are enormously welcoming and helpful to visitors. We encourage you to check and follow the advice of your own government about visiting Sierra Leone.

Do you take new graduates? Not at the moment. The dogs that tend to come through our clinic are often in poor states of health, which can make surgery a little challenging. We ask for people with a minimum of 5 years of experience. You must be competent and comfortable doing multiple spays in one day. People with surgery specialisms and additional years of experience are preferred. Retired vets are also welcome.

What is the accommodation like? We have been lucky enough to have been generously provided with free rooms in the homes of embassy staff over the last two trips. This means that the houses are extremely comfortable (large, air-conditioned rooms with 24/7 electricity). We can't guarantee this forever, but for the moment, we have been lucky. We may ask some volunteers to share a room but having your own room is also a possibility.

When do these trips happen? Twice a year - usually in March/April and October/November. We aim to recruit volunteers around 3 months ahead. You are welcome to register your interest in advance.

Do I need to be rabies jabbed? Yes - you must have completed the full course of rabies vaccinations. Rabies is endemic and we frequently come across dogs that are suspected to have rabies.

Is there anything else I should consider?

We look for people who are humble, flexible and who take a positive approach to challenges and problems. Cultural sensitivity in a country with different views on pet ownership than your own is a must. You also need to have the stamina to work outside (in the shade) in 30 degrees Celsius for several hours. Sierra Leone is a challenging location to work in and not for everyone. If you are an experienced vet tech/nurse or veterinary surgeon and are interested in joining us for a spay-neuter project as a volunteer, please email with your CV.

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