Animal shelter online with SMUstudents.org

Helping out with adoptions

When you lose a pet, what are the common steps you take to recover it?

Do you make flyers and post them around your neighbourhood? Do you send out an email to all you know to keep an eye out for your pet? Do you check the Humane Society?

You probably do at least one, if not all, of the above and very often those methods are successful.

However, thanks to the students at St Matthew’s University Veterinary School, all you have to do is go online to locate your animal.

SMU Veterinary School students launched a website in January to track and publicise which animals are picked up by the Department of Agriculture as strays and taken to the government shelter.

The website can be found online at www.SMUstudents.org.

Few people are aware that if a dog is older than six months is seen wandering the streets without a collar, it is assumed a stray, and as such can be picked up by the Department of Agriculture and taken to the pound.

Lindsey Foster, a student at SMU Veterinary School, realised that too often people are not aware of the Department of Agriculture’s animal shelter and the animals taken there.

‘There are many animals that are owned but not leashed and eventually picked up or trapped by the Department of Agriculture,’ she said.

‘In these cases people need to know their animals have been taken to a safe place but will only be held for seven days in order to be claimed by their owners.’

Dr. Carolyn McKinnie, associate professor of veterinary medicine at St. Matthew’s, explains the time constraint.

‘If there is space available they may keep the animal at the shelter longer and the animal would then be available for adoption,’ she explained. ‘But it is at the discretion of the government as to when an animal will be put down after the seven days.’

She emphasises that if people are interested in adopting an animal that has been taken to the shelter, they should let Shelter Manager Ronald Green know of their interest and leave their contact information at the shelter.

‘In many cases the owner is never located and the animal would be available to adopt,’ said Ms McKinnie. ‘The best thing to do would be to visit the shelter if someone sees a dog they are interested in and…then follow up again on day seven.’

The project for the website arose out of a desire to see a collaborative effort between the government and students.

‘I conceived of the idea to have SMU students work with the government and the animals at the shelter when we opened our clinical teaching facility in Savannah a year ago,’ explained Ms McKinnie.

As coordinator of the shelter, she had been working closely with the Department of Agriculture.

‘This is beneficial to the students as well as to the government. It was clear when I visited the shelter that although there were a percentage of animals that were feral or had been neglected, there were many animals that appeared to be from good homes.’

Ms McKinnie has noticed that many people in Cayman are not aware of the existence of the government shelter.

‘Even if they were aware of it, many individuals are unable to drive to Lower Valley during the hours the shelter is open to the public,’ added Ms McKinnie.

There was a clear need for an electronic method of tracking the shelter’s animals, and thus the website SMUstudents.org was born.

Ms McKinnie enlisted the help of one of her students, Dan Bishop, to create the site.

‘Dan is our webmaster,’ she said. ‘Our mission is to give the animals a chance to be found or adopted by people accessing the website.’

Mr. Bishop reported statistics that represented the growing popularity of the site. ‘The website has been averaging about 600 unique visitors a month,’ he said.

‘This basically means that about 20 people a day are using it to look for lost dogs or for dogs to adopt.’

Mr. Green said there has been a significant positive trend in reclaims and adoptions since the launch of the website.

The website is updated regularly and is fairly detailed with information on the dogs captured, so owners should not have a problem identifying their animals.

‘Pictures are taken of every new arrival and, if available, the location where the dog was picked up or trapped is also included,’ said Ms Foster.

‘All the information for a lost dog is provided if a caring owner wants to find their dog.’

Ms Foster emphasised the importance of owners’ vigilance when it comes to keeping track of their pets.

‘I hope this website opens the eyes of owners to what can happen if they do not keep their dog on a leash.’

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