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March 26, 2009

How Animal Welfare Organizations Are Helping Caribbean Street Dogs and Cats

Humane Society International

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    A volunteer vet with The Humane Society of Grand Bahama prepares to vaccinate dogs during distemper outbreak following a hurricane. Anne Ostberg/The Pegasus Foundation

At least 100 organizations are working in the Caribbean to improve animal welfare. Some examples of the kinds of services these animal welfare groups provide to their communities include the following:

» Offering free or low-cost vaccinations and other veterinary care for animals of low-income families

» Controlling animal populations through sterilization

» Maintaining feral cat colonies through trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs

» Providing shelter and finding new homes for for homeless animals

» Preparing for disasters and helping stray and pet animals during disasters

» Caring for animals that have been injured, neglected, abused, or abandoned

» Operating veterinary ambulances and mobile veterinary clinics

» Raising awareness of the need for improved animal welfare legislation

» Improving cooperation between government and animal welfare organizations

» Improving enforcement of animal protection laws

» Educating the public about responsible pet care and the connection between animal abuse and human violence

Educating adults and children about animals can be the most effective way to improve animal welfare. Animal neglect and abuse often results from people’s ignorance about animals’ needs. Once individuals learn about animal care, their treatment of animals often improves. Teaching empathy towards animals is also an effective way to teach character education. Studies show that children and adults who are kind to animals are also kinder to their fellow humans and are better citizens of their communities.

Education programs can be operated through the schools, churches, or service organizations. They can be presented in community settings such as public gatherings, local festivals, and other locations. Education can also take place every time an animal welfare organization has an opportunity for one-on-one contact with a member of the public—during spay/neuter or vaccination clinics, during animal adoption events, and during routine public visits to the local animal shelter or offices of animal welfare groups. Websites, radio announcements, and television public service announcements are other ways that animal welfare organizations can deliver educational messages.

For further information, visit Humane Society of Dominica and Turks and Caicos SPCA

» Spaying/neutering dogs and cats to help prevent overpopulations

 Animal overpopulation can be controlled through effective sterilization programs, also called spay/neuter clinics. Animal welfare organizations often organize spay/neuter clinics to help prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. Whether clinics focus on sterilizing homeless animals or animals belonging to low-income people who cannot afford to pay for the procedure, the goal is the same—to humanely reduce the numbers of homeless animals in the community.

Spay and neuter surgeries must be performed by a trained veterinarian. Spay/neuter clinics also require appropriate supplies and equipment. Animal welfare organizations often seek funding to help cover the costs of spay/neuter clinics.

 For further information, visit Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society and Humane Society of St. Thomas

» Vaccinating animals

Dogs and cats require vaccinations to prevent the spread of animal diseases such as rabies and distemper. Vaccination clinics are sometimes operated in conjunction with spay/neuter clinics. Animal welfare groups that provide vaccination clinics as a service to their communities are not only helping to improve animal health, but they are improving human health as well. These groups require funds to obtain vaccines and provide training to the individuals who will inject the animals.

For further information, visit Villa Michelle, Puerto Rico