Seasonal goodwill touches animals

It’s not only humans that enjoy Christmas. The dogs and cats at the Cayman Islands Humane Society also fare better over the festive season, when more volunteers are available to lend a hand, and more donations come in.

With operating costs of around $45,000 to $50,000 per month, the animal shelter relies heavily on donations from the public, as well as the income generated by the Book Loft and Thrift Shop and many annual fundraisers.

In addition to monetary donations, the Humane Society welcomes donations of supplies, such as dog and cat food, cleaning products, air fresheners, leads and pet toys. The animal shelter publishes a wish list, specifying the exact supplies and brands of pet food that they would like to receive.

“We’re very grateful for the extra support we get from the community at Christmas. However, we need support throughout the year and would also appreciate help at other times of year,” said Twila Escalante, shelter liaison with the Humane Society.

With the animal shelter having been operating at full capacity for the past couple of months, the increase in volunteers at this time of year is particularly welcome.

At the moment, there are 107 dogs and puppies and 77 cats at the shelter, said Jason Jairam, shelter manager. The crowded conditions are stressful for both the animals and the staff, who cannot give them all the attention they need.

Volunteers who can take dogs out for a walk are therefore a big help as this gives the dogs a much needed break from their confined quarters. Volunteers who can foster animals are also needed.

“Mostly we need foster homes for animals with heartworm and dogs with skin conditions. In the shelter environment it takes them longer to recover than in a nice, peaceful, quiet foster home,” Mr. Jairam said.

The Humane Society provides all the supplies a dog or cat would need in foster care, whether it’s for a day or for several months, Mr. Jairam added.

Adoption – not for Christmas

Ultimately, the goal is to find permanent homes for all the dogs and cats at the shelter, and the Humane Society does all that it can to ensure the animals go to good loving homes. This is why they perform home inspections and meet with prospective owners before adoptions go through and this is also why it is not possible for people to give the gift of a shelter animal to a third party.

“We don’t adopt out animals as gifts. They can only be adopted if they will be living in the house of the person adopting the animal,” Mr Jairam said. “In the past, we had a lot of animal returns as a result of allowing people to gift them.”

Adoptions have slowed down in recent months, which has contributed to the overcrowding. That is likely to get even worse now as, in the past, the Humane Society would send about 10 dogs each month to Pets Alive, a no-kill animal shelter in New York. However, since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in the New York area, Pets Alive is inundated with homeless animals from the immediate region and does not have the space to accept animals from Cayman.

“If people want to adopt and cannot afford the adoption fee, we can also waive the fee, for the animals that have been here the longest,” Mr. Jairam said.

Spaying and neutering

Finding foster homes or forever homes for dogs and cats at the shelter is the short term solution, but the long term goal for not only the Humane Society but also animal welfare groups such as CARE and PAWS, is to educate pet owners about the need to spay and neuter pets, and thus prevent unwanted litters. In order to avoid animals not being spayed or neutered because of the expense, these organisations will offer not only to cover the cost of surgeries, but also a pick up and drop off service if necessary.

PAWS and CARE both work hard within the community to build relationships with pet owners, and encourage them to treat their pets with greater care.

“We’re chipping away, little by little,” said Giuseppe Gatta, president of PAWS. “But for us, one animal spayed is 10 less puppies.”

Lesley Agostinelli, a director of CARE, is equally pleased with the progress they have made. So far this year they have spayed and neutered some 350 animals, and some 900 since the organisation started.

New Year’s Eve

The explosive sound of fireworks may be the sound of celebrations for humans, but for dogs it can be traumatising noise. If the animals are scared by the sound of fireworks they may run away, Mr. Gatta said. The Humane Society and PAWS therefore urge pet owners to be careful at this time of year, and keep pets securely indoors when fireworks are being set off.

Science Diet cat food

Pedigree dog food

Milk bones

Rubber dog toys

Cat toys

Cat beds and warming pads

Kitten & Puppy formula

Air Fresheners (solid – no oils or candles please)

Bath Mats/Towels

Bleach

Cleaning Detergent (Lysol or Pine Sol)

Paper Towels

13 and 55 gallon garbage bags

Baking soda

Large plastic double dishes for cats

Stainless steel food bowls

Plastic bowls

Slip leads

Collars

Choker Chains

Flat leads

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