AFRICAN DREAM; Mark sets up clinics to aid starving dogs.
PARAMEDIC Mark Whitfield is a man on a mission - to aid the homeless and starving dogs of Africa.
Mark, 33, took two weeks off work to fly to Sierra Leone where he helped provide two mobile vets' clinics for the stricken animals.
Hundreds of dogs in the country die of disease or starvation through neglect and lack of control with breeding.
Mark's dream was to do all he could to ease the problem.
He said: "I've always loved dogs and it's a shame that sometimes they get forgotten, especially if no one takes responsibility.
"I saw dogs all over Sierra Leone's capital Freetown and some were in a really bad way."
Mark, of Morden, Surrey, found a battered mobile clinic before he went to Africa.
He spent more than 300 hours refurbishing the vehicle which has space for two vets' surgical theatres. Many UK vets provided essential equipment.
In Sierra Leone Mark also helped fix up a broken-down clinic and fitted a new engine. His work is linked to the efforts of the World Society For the Protection of Animals and the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society.
Mark said: "The WSPA has been great in helping us to set up this work to help hundreds of dogs."
Typical of the problems facing the welfare organisations was a dog with a rope tied so tightly round its neck that it had become embedded.
"SLAWS immediately took the dog in, removed the rope and cleaned up its wound and are now trying to re-home it," said Mark.
"This really brought home to me what the work of WSPA and SLAWS is all about and what my help would really mean to these animals."
Local SLAWS bosses were in tears of joy when the clinics opened.
Mark said: "The team out there now has a lot more enthusiasm.
"The clinics will help to vaccinate more animals against rabies and hence will help more people in Sierra Leone."
Already the new clinics are encouraging more people to have their sick dogs treated and attitudes to animal welfare are improving.
Sierra Leone's Government has agreed to introduce a programme for neutering the strays.
It also has plans for a municipal unit to monitor the dog population, dog licensing, compulsory vaccinations and ID tags.
But dedicated Mark can only do so much and appeals to animal lovers to support the work of the WSPA.
The society also battles cruelty to other animals and campaigns to save endangered species.
For more information visit www.wspa.org.uk
CLINIC: Mark, front, and team set to help dogs in Sierra Leone SAVED: Mark and helper with a stray