Spay, neuter programme internationally backed

The Cayman Islands Humane Society played host to two visitors from the United States recently, partially in effort to encourage international assistance in dealing with the stray animal problem in Cayman.

Anne Ostberg from the Pegasus Foundation in New Hampshire and her associate Christina Gabela from the Washington-based Humane Society International spoke with representatives of the Humane Society, the Agricultural Department, and the Ministry of Agriculture during their visit here.

The Pegasus Foundation was established in 1996 to fund initiatives that benefit animals and the environment in several regions of the United States.

Because its founder once took a trip to the Caribbean and noticed a significant need to improve the treatment of animals there, Pegasus also funds animal welfare programmes in the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

One of the primary topics of conversation during the pair’s visit was the problem with stray animals in Cayman, something that has become even more of an issue since Hurricane Ivan.

Recent reports of the poison of dogs particularly disturbed the visitors because of the cruelty involved. It also does not eliminate stray animals in the long run.

‘As long as there’s a food source for stray animals, killing them off will not solve the problem,’ said Ms Ostberg. ‘Others will fill the niche.’

Ms Ostberg indicated that the best way to reduce the numbers of stray animals is the widespread adoption of the practice of spaying and neutering.

‘It is effective while reducing animal suffering,’ she said.

Ms Gabela said the Human Society International would be willing to help implement a spay and neutering programme in Cayman by providing sample educational materials and giving advice on an education curriculum.

Depending on the commitment shown locally, the Pegasus Foundation might take the aid a step further.

‘We would strongly consider offering some funding for the programme,’ Ms Ostberg said.

‘But we would expect it to be accompanied by a spay and neutering education program, and the government would have to work along with the Humane Society to implement measurable change.’

In the past, Pegasus has provided funding for the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program out of Houston, Texas.

SNAP has taken an interest in the situation in Cayman, and was instrumental in organising the post-Hurricane Ivan airlift of more than 200 stray animals here to Houston.

Working along with Cayman Humane Society board member Dave Olson for near five years now, SNAP has also been trying to bring its mobile spay and neutering clinic to Cayman to conduct a six-week programme.

The clinic would travel from district to district and offer free spay and neutering services.

The proposal still awaits final Cayman Islands Government approval; however Ms Ostberg said her discussions with the Government were ‘very encouraging.’

‘This has been a very hopeful two days,’ she said before she left, ‘We see a wonderful relationship between the Government and the Humane Society, which is very critical to our involvement.’

Beyond the spay and neutering programme, the two visiting women talked about improving the treatment of animals in general.

Ms Gabela said parents play an important role in the attitudes toward animals in a society.

‘Studies have shown that if a child is taught to be nice to animals, they grow into adults that are nice to animals,’ she said. ‘It’s a form of character development.’

Like the Pegasus Foundation, the Humane Society is interested in one primary thing:

‘Our ultimate goal is to eliminate animal suffering,’ Ms. Gabela said.