While it is expected to worry about the safety of one’s family and friends during a hurricane, pet lovers in Cayman are also concerned for the animals on the island.
Those planning the new Hurricane Pet Shelter are hoping to answer this concern.
Co-Director of the Hurricane Pet Shelter, Kathleen Bodden-Harris, has been a primary instigator in getting the shelter running.
She has formed a committee including vets Dr. Lana Watler, Dr. Brenda Bush and Dr. Colin Wakelin.
Prison Director Dwight Scott donated the crown land directly adjacent to the prison as a shelter site.
‘Mr. Scott stated his support of our project and the possibilities of further involvement to promote reform and rehabilitation within the prison system,’ said Mrs. Bodden-Harris.
‘It was suggested that this would be a goodwill effort for the inmates in their contributions of labour towards the project and further reform efforts could develop as a result.’
These reform efforts would most likely take place when hurricane warnings are not in effect, though the shelter would be immediately evacuated upon receipt of a hurricane warning to allow room for the pets.
This, however, is only one idea of many circulating around the use of the shelter when hurricanes are not a threat.
A hurricane-resistant building has been purchased and shipped and is in storage.
‘My husband and I made the decision to put forth the finances in hopes that by the time of shipment we could receive government approval,’ said Mrs. Bodden-Harris.
The approval has not been given.
‘We have turned to appealing to private individuals for funds,’ said Mrs. Bodden-Harris. ‘We’ve set up a tax-free account in the US, so that if people wish to donate as a tax write-off they can.’
The new shelter’s location has 12 kennels, which were formerly going to be used to house the prison’s K-9 Corps.
However, the dog handlers decided it would be safer to keep the dogs inside the compound and a new use for the kennels had not been found until the concept of a hurricane pet shelter arose.
The kennels survived Hurricane Ivan with minimum damage.
‘The individual kennels could easily house multiple dogs contained in crates for emergency purposes,’ said Mrs. Bodden-Harris.
‘The existing structure has a competent drainage system and can easily be converted to sustain additional kennels. Though there is no electricity wired, there are conduits in place for electrical capacity.’
The shelter’s more urgent need is the funding of CI$30,000 for materials necessary for the foundation and erection of the building.
Mrs. Bodden-Harris earnestly believes there is a great need for the facility.
‘Any arguments about the need for such a facility went right out the window with me personally, when I served three weeks this past September and October in the Gulf Coast assisting with relief and rescue of the animal victims from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,’ she stated.
‘The need for such a shelter should never be queried.’
She said people will put their own lives at risk for the sake of their pets’ lives, so the shelter would most likely not only help to save a few animals’ lives, but possibly humans’ lives also.
‘People awaiting evacuation during Hurricane Katrina with a bag of belongings in one hand and a beloved dog or cat in the other were told to abandon their pets or they could not go into the shelter.
‘For many, that pet represented all there was that was important in this world, and their choice to stay was paid for with their lives, safety and health,’ said Mrs. Bodden-Harris.
The spreading of diseases by feral animals may also be a factor, she added.
‘The few animals healthy enough to survive, survived only to spread the disease to the once-beloved pets that found themselves homeless too.
‘These animals left in the wild continue the spread of disease and without a proper spay/neuter programme and facility the epidemic spreads,’ she said.
The shelter will be able to shelter dogs, cats and rabbits. Hamsters are being considered, whereas tropical birds and iguanas or any other species will not be accepted.
People must pre-register their animals with the shelter to ensure they can get access to the shelter once a hurricane warning is in place. There is some preparation required, so it is necessary for owners to contact the shelter to pre-register before any hurricane warnings are put out.
What remains is that animal safety is as important as human safety and must be considered so, said Mrs. Bodden-Harris.
‘The facility we are proposing is not the cure-all, but it is the best option we have at this time and the ideal of the project is for it to be expandable as well as adaptable to changes in the future.’
If you are wish to donate, write a cheque to the Cayman Islands Humane Society (note on the cheque that it is for the Hurricane Pet Shelter fund).
Mail the cheque to the Humane Society at PO Box 1167 GT, or drop it by the Society’s office on North Sound Road, before the Butterfield Bank roundabout.
US citizens wishing to make a tax-exempt donation to this cause can mail cheques to:
Friends of the Cayman Islands Humane Society
Tax ID#/ EIN# 522376265
7012 Union Avenue