In response to the letter printed in the Caymanian Compass on Tuesday, 15 March we take this opportunity to once again set out the facts which have been documented and released by the Shelter Manager and the Board of Directors on more than one occasion since Hurricane Ivan.
Seventy-one shelter animals were placed in foster homes just before Hurricane Ivan hit Cayman. A few were left at the shelter along with one of our staff members. All of these animals survived the storm. Some of the ones that survived were part of the first airlift to Houston and have since been adopted.
The Cayman Islands Humane Society’s shelter was severely damaged by the hurricane. The building was flooded with five feet of sewage and sea water, all food and supplies were destroyed and we were without water and electricity. Most of our volunteers, shelter staff and board members had sustained damage to their own properties and were not in a position to set up a clinic or provide proper shelter to the many animals that were then homeless, injured, diseased and hungry.
Dave Olson, who is a member and volunteer, was able through his personal contact with Spay and Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) in Houston to ask for help. Within days, these wonderful people were able to send us a generator for the shelter, provide medicine, food and supplies through many generous contributions made from concerned organizations and companies in the US.
US response team
Ms Pilar Bush, Interim Director of Tourism, responded immediately to our request to grant permission for the SNAP Rescue Response Team to come to Grand Cayman. This included the Director of SNAP, a licensed veterinarian and two vet techs; all of whom volunteered their time to come to our aid. Cayman Airways kindly flew in all supplies, medicine and food along with the Rescue Response Team. Within half an hour of arriving in Grand Cayman, this team working along with our volunteers, staff and board members cleaned out the shelter and were able to set up an emergency clinic to provide immediate care for the many injured and abandoned animals.
Over the next few days and weeks, these devoted people drove tirelessly throughout the island rescuing lost, abandoned and severely injured animals, as well as distributed food to people who had no food to feed their animals. The rescued animals were then examined by the licensed vet, tested for feline leukaemia and heart worm. All of these animals were scanned for microchip identification with a scanner kindly provided to the shelter by Dr. Bush. All testing was documented by the licensed vet.
At this point, 95 percent of all homes in Grand Cayman were damaged. Thousands of people, now homeless, had left the island, many of them abandoning their animals. There were no homes available to meet the needs of so many animals. It was the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Humane Society to ensure that the injured and diseased animals did not cause a threat to the community.
Extremely difficult decisions had to be made to euthanize some of these animals which were done humanely by the licensed vet. Sadly, in the end, it was necessary to euthanize 41 animals due to severe injuries (28), highly aggressive behaviour (1), FELV/FIV positive (5) and strong heart worm positive (7).
We then found ourselves overcrowded with a vast number of healthy animals without homes. SNAP organized through the Houston Humane Society and the Houston SPCA an offer to take a total of 250 of our animals for adoption. This was a life saving option for us and for the Cayman Islands. All animals identified for the Houston adoption were in our care. Those with ear indentations that were spayed or neutered by our local vets stayed in the care of the shelter for over one week as required by the Cayman Islands Government. The Department of Agriculture assisted in providing all animals with the proper health certificates.
No animal left our care without the proper documentation required both locally and by the US Department of Agriculture. Cayman Airways kindly airlifted these animals free of cost to Houston. To date, since the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, we have been able to send 215 homeless cats and dogs to Houston. These formerly homeless dog and cats now have happy homes.
The Cayman Islands Humane Society’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by the membership and is strictly volunteer-based. We as a board are proud of what has been achieved over the past few months, which could not have been done without the help of so many people. We are eternally indebted to Dave Olson, SNAP, Cayman Airways, our local Veterinarians, the Departments of Agriculture and Tourism as well as the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Gilbert McLean, our volunteers, shelter staff and all the contributors.
The Cayman Islands Humane Society’s Shelter, despite limited facilities, continues its mission to provide food, shelter and health care for defenceless, homeless and abused animals, the ultimate goal being to place them into loving homes. The hard work and continued dedication of the shelter staff, volunteers and our local vets, Dr. Brenda Bush and Dr. Lana Watler, continues to make this possible. In addition, we are a voluntary organization and we rely solely on contributions from the community.
The only solution to effectively control the over population of stray animals is to establish an aggressive spay/neuter programme. The Humane Society has been working on such a programme for some time now along with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture and SNAP. Over the years our local vets have assisted us but it is difficult for them to keep up with the demand. We are working together with the Department of Agriculture to implement such a programme.
We all have a responsibility to our animal population and rather then heaping unfounded accusations on the work we try to do under such difficult circumstances, I would encourage the writer of Tuesday’s letter to consider becoming an active volunteer of the Cayman Islands Humane Society.
I leave you with these few lines by Jim Willis:
I look in all the cages in the Shelter,
The cast offs of human society.
I see in their eyes the love, hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal
‘God’ I said, ‘this is terrible! Why don’t you do something?’
God was silent for a moment, and then He spoke softly.
‘I have done something’, he replied. ‘I created you.’
President, Cayman Islands Humane Society