Nassau, The Bahamas — Close to 2,000 dogs in New Providence have been sterilised through Operation Potcake, a two-week spay and neuter initiative by the international organisation Animal Balance and the Bahamas Humane Society.
And, irresponsible pet owners came under fire for abandoning their animals.
Emma Clifford, director of Animal Balance said the only way to combat the high numbers of street dogs is through an aggressive spay and neuter programme.
Animal Balance organises high volume spay and neuter campaigns on islands around the world. They help the local government, animal organisations, and the veterinary community become self-sufficient at humane animal management control.
Five clinic sites where set up throughout New Providence, since January 10, providing the free services. The programme ended Monday (January 21).
The dogs were also vaccinated and given internal and external parasite treatment.
“All of these thing combined means that you have a healthier street dog population here on New Providence,” said Ms Clifford.
Operation Potcake also starts a five-year programme in which the Bahamas Veterinary Association and the animal organisations including Bahamas Humane Society will continue the work.
If 75 per cent of the stray dogs are sterilised then the population starts to decline naturally, said Ms. Clifford.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, V. Alfred Gray, visited the Operation Potcake clinic in Fox Hill on last weekend.
“I am grateful on behalf of the Bahamian people for this gesture of kindness to our country,” he said. “I do not believe that money will ever pay for the sacrifices they make as professionals to do this free of charge.
“There are isolated incidences which give rise to great concern and that’s why we have done what we could to trap and euthanise those animals whenever we could where there are no owners for them and nobody would seek to adopt them.”
Dr. Maurice Isaacs, veterinary officer, with the Department of Agriculture underscored the “serious problem throughout The Bahamas” with respect to stray dogs from attacks on livestock to being vectors of diseases.
“We are talking about trying to promote responsible animal ownership,” said Dr. Isaacs. “These programmes are excellent but they are more like a band aid because you need a sustained programme.
“No matter how well they do, if there are animals that are not neutered they can reproduce and repopulate the area and you can have the same problem next year.”
Dr. Isaacs said it is “inhumane” to just release dogs into the communities and leave them.
“This is not their natural environment,” he said. “We have taken them out of their natural environment and brought them into ours and so it’s our responsibility to take care of them.”
He expressed the need for public education so people can understand the responsibility of being an animal owner.
“Many dogs are sent up for adoption because folks don’t know how to work with them. They need training, not just the dogs, but the persons also,” he said.
A lot of dogs end up being euthanised.
“Unfortunately, for most of those dogs that’s the best thing that ever happened to them because of cruel treatment and abandonment,” he said.
But, for Kim Aranha, president of the Bahamas Humane Society, euthanization does not resolve the stray dog problem.
“The only way is spay and neuter,” she said. “The Bahamas Humane Society pledges to continue this work for as long as it takes to humanely reduce the number of dogs on the island.
“The owners of these dogs have a huge responsibility to their fellow Bahamians. If you own a dog you must, by law, keep it on your property.
“Most of the dogs we pick up have owners. Until we can get people to understand what responsible dog ownership is, it makes it three times as difficult for us to resolve the problem.
“If you have a dog that you don’t want, bring it to the Bahamas Humane Society. We will take it and we will find it a home.”
The Veterinary Medical Association of The Bahamas has pledged to do 3,000 low-cost spays each year for five years.
By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services
Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government the Hon. V. Alfred Gray watches as veterinary assistants prepare animals for surgery during Operation Potcake at Fox Hill Community Centre. At left is Emma Clifford, Founder and Director of Animal Balance. (BIS Photo /Raymond A. Bethel).