Frequently asked questions
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a preventable viral disease usually transmitted by the saliva from one
infected mammal to another mammal. It can pass from animal to human. The
disease causes serious damage to the central nervous system and ultimately causes
brain damage and is 99.9% fatal.
Preventing the spread of Rabies and so keeping the human population of Morocco
safe is one of the most important things we do. People in Morocco are naturally afraid of Rabies and often use this as the reason for driving away or killing stray dogs. This does not work, but through vaccination campaigns Rabies can be controlled and eventually eradicated.
How is rabies caught?
Rabies is transferred from an infected animal through its saliva, usually when one
animal bites another. Globally 95% of cases where people have caught rabies it has
been from a dog, though it is also possible to catch rabies from infected cats, foxes,
As the disease spreads through the animal, it causes changes to their behaviour, a
normally friendly dog can become aggressive, or an aggressive dog can become
frightened and shymeek. A rabies infected dog often acts strangely, may tremble,
stagger, stop eating and froth from the mouth.. however, these symptoms could also
mean something else.
Is there a cure for Rabies?
There is no cure once the animal or person has become infected. However, if the
person or animal receives a series of vaccinations as soon after they have been
bitten the infection can be prevented and the disease stopped. This is known as
Post Exposure Prophylaxis.
In Morocco, if you have been bitten by a cat or dog that you don’t know has been
vaccinated against rabies, wash and disinfect the wound immediately and go straight
to your local public health clinic or emergency room where you can receive the PEP
vaccinations free of charge.
Can I catch rabies from my dog?
Yes, if your dog has rabies you can catch it if it bites you.
But if your dog has been vaccinated against rabies and is properly immune, it will not be able
to catch the disease and so cannot pass it on to you. This is why all dog owners in Morocco
must vaccinate their dogs against rabies and other diseases. Your vet can give your dog a
combination of vaccines to cover all dangerous diseases.
What can be done?
The only effective way to eradicate rabies from a country is by vaccination of all
owned and stray dogs. This creates a barrier against the disease. Rabies cannot be
transmitted to a properly vaccinated dog. Any dogs with the disease will not be able
to pass it on to vaccinated dogs and the disease will die with the infected animals.
In Morocco culling (shooting or poisoning) dogs has been used as a solution for
years. But it is not effective as we can never kill 100% of all the stray dogs. Any
dogs left alive will be vulnerable to the disease and so it will continue to spread
within the stray dog population.
How can I help SARA?
Find out more about local TNR schemes and support them. In Agadir you can contact CSP
(link) Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and keep the vaccinations up to date.
If you find a puppy in the street or beach and want to offer it a home, the best thing
you can do is take it to a vet immediately and start the vaccinations and, when the
time is right, get it neutered.You can always help us by donating so that we can continue to vaccinate all the dogs who come into in our care. All the dogs already at the SARA
refuges have already been vaccinated and neutered. .
What is Parvovirus?
SARA battles against this highly contagious virus in our young, rescue dogs. Parvo is rampant and virulent in Morocco. Canine Parvovirus (CPV) or Parvo is a seriously contagious virus that is usually fatal if caught by young puppies (from 6 week to 6 months old). The virus targets the small intestine where it destroys cells, slows food absorption, and interferes with the working of the gut.
CPV can also affect the bone marrow and heart muscles of a puppy.
The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes with blood) causing rapid weight loss along with a lack of energy and loss of interest in food. Older dogs can also catch Parvovirus but are more likely to have the strength to survive the infection.
The good news is that with early use of vaccines we can prevent the spread of this killer disease.
How is Parvo caught?
CPV is usually caught through direct contact with another dog carrying the virus or by indirect contact via a contaminated object. The main route is via infected faeces (dog poop). So transmission can occur each time your dog sniffs (or licks) an infected dog or their poop or is in contact with an object eg, a food bowl, collar used by an infected dog or even the hands and clothes of someone who has handled an infected dog. This is why it is important to keep cleaning up after puppies and isolating any puppies with, or suspected of carrying, the virus. It is equally important that anyone who has been in contact with ill puppies takes care to change clothing and thoroughly wash before coming into contact with healthy puppies.
Unfortunately, an infected puppy is contagious to other dogs within 4 or 5 days of catching the disease, though symptoms might not be obvious for another couple of days. They can also be contagious up to 10 days after recovering.
Is there a cure for Parvo?
No, sadly there is no cure. If the disease is identified early, the symptoms can be treated, and the puppy has a chance of surviving.
It is really important to take a puppy to the vet as soon as you notice that it seems ill. The vet may take a blood sample to find out exactly what the problem is, but more than likely they will put the puppy on
a drip to replace lost fluid (the main danger of diarrhoea) and give antibiotics to help fight any other infections that the weakened puppy will be susceptible to.
Can I catch Parvovirus?
No, Canine Parvovirus cannot be caught by humans. However, as mentioned above, humans can transmit canine parvovirus from one dog to another so you should always be careful if you are in contact with puppies and disinfect/wash clothing and shoes if then going into contact with other young dogs who are not vaccinated.
What can be done against Parvo and How can I help SARA?
To prevent your puppies catching parvo you should not let them meet any dogs until they have had the full series of vaccines. Many vets recommend that puppies should not go outside the house before the vaccinations have taken affect. There are three vaccines, usually given at 6, 8 and 12 weeks old. While your puppy is still being fed by the mother (before 6 weeks) they will have the advantage of her antibodies (which is why it is important to make sure all mothers have their vaccinations up to date before being allowed to breed). At 14 weeks, 2 weeks after completing the course of vaccinations, your puppy should have developed antibodies to resist an infection and can be taken outside and allowed to mix with other dogs.
It is estimated that Parvovirus kills about 80% of the stray Moroccan puppy
population! Any puppies that come into our refuges are vaccinated immediately and kept isolated from other dogs until they have developed immunity. However, as the virus can survive on its own for months and may already be present in a puppy before symptoms show, we do sometimes find that we lose puppies to Parvovirus.
If you find a puppy and want to offer it a home, the best thing you can do is take it to a vet immediately and start the vaccinations. You can help us by donating so that we can continue to vaccinate all the dogs in our care.
What is Mange?
Mange is a skin disease caused by biting mites – very small, insect like “bugs”. The
bites cause itching, fur loss and bleeding and can become a very serious problem for
the animal infected. All animals, humans, dogs, cats etc etc will have some variety of mite living
alongside or on them. They are always present, a part of normal life and do not
cause any problems.
But there are two types of mange mite that can cause problems to our dogs:
Sarcoptic Mange or Scabies
Sarcoptic Mange or Scabies is a very contagious and painful condition. The mites
bury under the skin and lay eggs which then hatch, move about, and grow into
adults, laying more eggs. After 3 or 4 weeks the adult mites die. The mites prefer
hairless skin, so the first signs of infection are found on the ears, armpits, and belly
of your dog. The skin itches and as the dog scratches and bites at their coat, the
skin becomes inflamed and irritated. The dog will lose hair, develop scabs, and
open sores which are prone to other infections. If it is not treated the dog’s lymph
nodes can swell and the dog becomes seriously ill.
Demodectic Mange or Red Mange or Demodex
This form of mange is caused by a different mite and is less dangerous and less
contagious. The mite is normally present in small numbers in all dogs but when a
dog’s immune system is weakened (eg by illness or old age) the mite can increase in
numbers and cause problems for the dog. The biting mites cause hair loss and red,
itching patches of skin. In some cases, it can develop so that the dog loses all hair
and is covered in a red, itching rash with open sores.
How is Mange caught?
Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange) is easily passed between dogs either by direct contact
between dogs or via dog bedding. Demodectic mange is not contagious.
Is there a cure for Mange?
Both Demodectic and Sarcoptic Mange or Scabies are easily treated with medication
from the vet, though the vet will first try to identify which mite is causing the problem.
The treatment must be given regularly, and the full course of treatment followed. If
there are other dogs in the household, you should ask the vet about treatment for
them. The vet may also prescribe medicated shampoos and or steroid creams to
help calm the skin irritation and antibiotics to treat any infection caught by the open
sores and it might be necessary to clip or shave the dogs coat.
It is also important to thoroughly wash any dog beds or bedding where your dog has
Can I catch Mange from my dog?
Scabies is very contagious and can be passed from dog to human, fortunately the
mite cannot live on the human body so while it will cause irritation it will be short
lasted. Demodectic mange is not contagious to humans.
What can be done for Mange and how can I help SARA?
Mange is commonly found in street dogs, but it can be treated. If you notice a dog
that has red, itchy skins or open sores then the best thing you can do is take it to a
vet immediately, have it vaccinated against the common diseases and checked for
any parasitic infection.
There are treatments available against mange, however these treatments are
expensive. To help us you can either contact your vet and see if they have any near
expiry treatments that could be donated to us or you can help us by donating so that
we can treat all the dogs in our care as needed.
What is TNVR?
For over 60 years authorities in Morocco have been culling street dogs using guns
and strychnine poisoning. Yet there are now more stray dogs than ever. Strychnine
is a horrifically painful way to die – and is not an effective way of removing stray
dogs. There is a more humane alternative.
Tag – all dogs are given a numbered ear tag so we know they have been treated
Neuter – male and female dogs are neutered to prevent the birth of more unwanted
Vaccinate – dogs are vaccinated against Rabies and other diseases. This makes
them safe to live with and prevents spread of deadly diseases.
Release – the dogs are then returned to their street where they are known
TNVR is the best way to:
- Reduce the number of dogs on the street
- The only humane way to control dog populations in the long term is
- Dogs are territorial, they will keep other dogs from moving into your
- Reduce the risk of disease
- Vaccination is seen as the most effective way of eradicating rabies
- Dogs captured can also been vaccinated and treated against other
- Looking after your street dogs means they will be healthier and less
likely to catch and spread disease.
- Cut down disturbance and dog fights
- Neutered dogs are less aggressive – though just as protective - and
because they are fit they are less likely to be challenged by other dogs
- Street crime is also reduced if you have a neighbourhood dog watching
out for you.
And finally, dogs are man’s best friend!
- Having a dog in your life is good for you
- Look after your street dogs and they will look after
How can I help with the TNVR?
There are many ways you can help keep your street dogs and your streets safe.
- Donate to SARA, as little as 10 dirham per month will help us help you or by Teaming.
- Befriend your local dog – this will make it easier to catch and TNVR
- Contact us to find out how you can have it vaccinated and sterilised
- Think about rehoming a street dog rather than buying one
- Never dump a dog on the street
What is Leishmaniasis?
Canine Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the Leishmania parasite transmitted in
the bite of an infected sandfly. After becoming infected many dogs do not show
symptoms for months or years but when they do appear the disease takes the form
of skin lesions and general unwellness (tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting) and in
the worst case it can cause liver failure.
How is Leishmaniasis caught?
Leishmaniasis can only be caught if your dog is bitten by a sandfly carrying the
Leishmania parasite. It can therefore only be caught in areas where sandflies exist,
generally the warmer countries around the Mediterranean, however with climate
change, the area is spreading.
Is there a cure?
Sadly not, though it can be managed.
Can I catch Leishmaniasis from my dog?
No. The only way the disease can be spread is from an infected sandfly and while it
is possible for a human to become infected by a sandfly, it is vanishingly rare.
What can be done?
While there is no cure, infection can be prevented if the dog is regularly given a with
a spot-on treatment or wears a collar to prevent the sandfly bites.
If your dog is unwell and after blood test your vet determines that it is Leishmaniasis
they can prescribe a course of treatment, which if followed will prevent your dog from
developing any serious symptoms. The disease may recur but, as long as you follow
your vet’s advice, it can be controlled and is unlikely to cause serious problems.
How can I help SARA?
As sandflies are prevalent in Morocco it is important that we regularly treat all our
dogs to give them protection against being bitten. You can help us by donating medication or send us money so that we can purchase enough treatments for all the dogs in our care.
What is a flight volunteer?
Simply someone who is flying from Morocco and has volunteered to help transport an animal
Why do you need them?
It is very difficult for us to find a good home for dogs and cats in Morocco, but each animal
deserves to have the best chance to find a happy forever home. To allow this to happen we
look for families to adopt our dogs and cats in other parts of the world, the UK, Europe, North America etc
To send animals via cargo is very expensive, but many airlines will allow passengers to take
dogs and cats along with them on their flights at a much lower price.
Small dogs and cats can travel in the cabin but larger dogs have to travel in the hold.
What does it involve?
If you are flying from Morocco, either as a regular thing or travelling back after a holiday and
would like to volunteer please get in touch with us *email address.
We can check whether your flight will allow animals and if we have any dogs or cats ready to
fly to your destination. If the answer to both of those questions is yes we will then ask you
for details of your flight so we can book and pay for the animals to be added to your ticket.
On the day of the flight, we will meet you at the airport with the animal and all the paperwork
and go with you to check in. All you have to do is be there a bit early.
When the flight arrives we will have volunteers to meet you as you leave customs and
passport control. They will take over from there.
Will it cost me anything?
No, absolutely not. The only thing it will cost is a bit of your time.
SARA was born after we rescued 750 dogs from the streets in Agadir. This year we had a giant growth spurt when we rescued another 300 from desperate conditions in the Commune Dog pound.
Many of our supporters will have seen the distressing videos of dogs in the Agadir city pound dying of starvation and other dogs reduced to eating the bodies to stay alive. There was a lot of noise in the press and social media about these dogs last year. These dogs are now safe with us and learning to live a better life. We want to make a bit of noise about that!
How did this happen? For the last year our founder, Michelle Augsburger, has been working hard behind the scenes to try and improve the situation in the city commune and was eventually allowed to gain access to the city pound and deliver food for the dogs and donkeys that were held there. We had a let up in the first half of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown meant that the city workers were not out and about collecting dogs, but that only lasted till September when the collection started up again and numbers in the dog pound began to rise.
This year, the city approached our sister organisation, Le Coeur sur la Patte (which Michele founded in 2013 for TNR), to start a new TNR program with aid from SPCAI. However, before that could start, a new home had to be found for the dogs currently in the city dog pound. SARA agreed to take these dogs, now numbering just under 300. Rescuing another 300 dogs meant that we need to find a new bit of land to rent with some buildings and then had to make it suitable and safe for the dogs and the staff who would take care of them.
This now our New Refuge.
It is just amazing how happy the dogs are to be in their new home, safe, fed and cared for. But it was not easy for us. Our animal numbers increased by around a third. We now have higher costs as we have to pay rent for the new refuge, hire extra staff, and transport food and materials to the new refuge. We had to vaccinate, sterilise and in some cases get veterinary treatment for the dogs. The dogs are safe, but we have taken on a huge financial burden. All these costs are carried by SARA and are not funded by any grant aid or subsidy.
All our refuges are off the beaten track. We cannot place hundreds of dogs in a residential area – that just will not work. The land we can afford to rent has no services, so we must manage without electricity and piped water.
One day we will combine all our dogs in one new purpose-built refuge, with a regular water supply and electricity. We will have proper facilities for our staff, and we will be able to accommodate visitors and volunteers. But for now, we must continue doing the best we can with what we have. We can only do that if we have your support. Every penny donated is spent on caring for and feeding the animals. Every penny helps to make a difference.