Animal welfare workers are urging Cayman Islands residents to adopt unwanted dogs instead of splashing out for designer breeds.
They say the shelter is full to capacity and the problem is getting worse because of the number of people leaving the island and leaving their pets behind.
The Humane Society is embarking on a new campaign to encourage locals to adopt a “Cayman mutt,” rather than buying puppies from breeders. And they are urging pet owners departing the Cayman Islands to take their dogs with them.
Despite major changes on the board of directors, the shelter continues to struggle with the issue of overcrowding, and the new board is having to turn away animals.
Michelle Sabti, one of the new directors, said the situation is getting desperate, and animals dropped off at the shelter will have to be passed on to the Department of Agriculture, where they face an uncertain fate.
She said the society is working with other charities to deal with the problem. But as new homes are found for dogs, both on island and overseas, more come into the shelter.
The root of the problem is the large stray population in Grand Cayman and the failure of many pet owners to spay and neuter their animals.
Ms Sabti urges anyone who has the opportunity to adopt one of the shelter’s dogs. She said overcrowding at the George Town site is such that it would be inhumane to admit more dogs.
Further, she says there is a popular trade in designer breeds, like the chihuahua, popularized by female celebrities, with those kind of dogs regularly sold online.
“It started around the time Paris Hilton was carrying one around in her handbag. People think they are no trouble because they are so small, but they bark a lot and they need a lot of attention.”
Other popular breeds include pit bulls and Belgian shepherds. The Humane Society says the advantage of having a purebred dog is overstated. Mixed breeds actually live longer and are less prone to disease.
“We are asking people to consider adopting a good old Cayman mutt instead. We have all ages, all kinds of dogs that just need a home,” Ms Sabti said. “Ask anyone who has ever adopted a rescue dog. They have this extra love and loyalty. It is as if they know they have been rescued.”
Deb Fielder of the Humane Society said one of the biggest issues the shelter is facing is in the number of expats who are leaving the islands. She encourages anyone leaving the island to take their dogs or cats with them.
“To us, a pet is a member of the family and is meant to be forever, not just for as long as you live in your current location. We have seen people ship their animals to almost everywhere in the world, so we know that there are options other than leaving the pet behind.”