The American Fondouk Animal Hospital:
An Oasis for Animals in North Africa
The Mission of the American Fondouk is to work to provide people-to-people foreign aid on behalf of and through animals by providing free veterinary care, guidance on proper nutrition and handling, and compassionate care for the animals of Morocco and their owners. The Fondouk strives to better the lives of all Moroccan animals, particularly working animals and the families who depend on their labor.
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What is the American Fondouk? Technically, a fondouk is an Arab inn, with a ground floor that’s a courtyard used as a stable, while above are rooms for travelers. But the American Fondouk is much more than a stable, it’s a refuge for animals in Morocco. The American Fondouk is a charitable veterinary hospital that treats over 20,000 animals each year for free.
Many people do not realize the MSPCA-Angell has a connection with Morocco. It started over 80 years ago, in 1927. At that time, it was the heyday of extended European tours and Morocco was becoming increasingly fashionable on the Mediterranean circuit.
But when American tourist Amy Bend Bishop arrived in this magical place in the late 1920s, she was horrified by the harsh reality of the conditions of animals, mostly working equines, in Fez. At the time, there were 40,000 pack animals living in Fez. As in any country dependent on subsistence agriculture, Morocco's draft and pack animals were worked hard by owners who were often poor and uneducated. The animals needed good veterinary care, improved husbandry and nutrition, and humane handling ‑ both for their own sake and for the sake of the families who depended on their labor.
As a result of what she saw, Mrs. Bishop urged her friends, Dr. Frances Rowley, then President of the MSPCA, and Sydney Coleman, a prominent New York animal activist, to build a refuge for the animals of Morocco. Respectively, Dr. Rowley and Mr. Coleman served as the first and second presidents of the Fondouk, bringing aid to thousands of desperate animals in Morocco. Years later, Sydney’s grandson, Bob Coleman, would take the helm as today’s Fondouk president.
Mrs. Bishop was a woman who believed in righting wrongs. In 1927 she contributed $8,000 in memory of her mother. With this donation, some hard work and the help of a few dedicated friends, the American Fondouk was established. Since the beginning, the MSPCA has overseen both the endowment and the operations of the Fondouk, taking the unique mission of the Fondouk to heart and making it an important part of their own international humane animal outreach.
Three-quarters of a century later, modern-day Morocco is a developing nation, but many of its people are still poor. In a country where there is just one doctor for every 4,500 humans, it is tempting to view veterinary care as a luxury. But the economic health of the community rides, quite literally, on the backs of its working animals, and often on the Fondouk's programs.
The Fondouk is a full-service animal hospital treating 50 to 100 animals a day, more than 20,000 annually. The hospital is staffed by two resident veterinarians, a blacksmith, and 8 other employees. An onsite laboratory helps with diagnosis and a small surgical facility handles routine procedures. With limited resources and an endless need, contributions of any size are greatly appreciated and make a tremendous difference in the Fondouk’s ability to treat the maximum number of animals in need of care.