Animal welfare is a concern in just about every community in the world. Many organizations have tried to improve conditions for strays, pets, and farm animals, and although they have come a long way, rescuers and animal lovers sometimes have to wonder if their efforts are making a difference. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah (a non-profit that now brings in and redistributes over $80 million in donations/grants per year) has been trying to save animals and educate the public about spaying/neutering/TNR/animal welfare in the U.S. since the 1980s. Since their inception, they've gotten the kill rate of animals in U.S. shelters down from 17 million per year to 4 million, and their aim is to turn every shelter/rescue in the U.S. into a no-kill shelter/rescue. It's been a long 30+ years, but they're getting there....slowly. If it's this difficult to save animals in a pet loving, first world nation that spends more than $60 BILLION per year on pet products/care, you can imagine how hard it is in other countries.
One of the first things you notice when you're traveling, especially but in no way only, in third world countries, is the stray animal population - many of them looking worse for wear. It's truly heartbreaking to see, and worse because you feel like you can't help them. Add on different takes on cultural viewpoints: Why would anyone want flea-ridden animals in their houses? What's wrong with cock/pit bull fighting? The dog is simply here for security, so I'm just going to put a rope around its neck and leave it outside with or without regular shade/water/food. I wouldn't chop my cajones off, so why would I do that to my dog? It's easier & cheaper to just poison, dump, or drown an unwanted animal; what's the big deal? Add an owner's inability to pay for food or to provide medical care for a pet, and an animal's life can be a tough one.
How do you address these questions/practices without forcing your cultural beliefs on to others? It is not an easy task, but as the world gets smaller and people see others engaging in positive relationships with their animals, things are changing. On St. Kitts, how animals are viewed and cared for is also changing because of Ross University non-profit organizations like SAFE, PAWS, VIDA, and The Feral Cat Project, and veterinarian Dr. Mary Mauldin Pereira's One Love Pets.
Briefly, Feral Cat Project (FCP) runs a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program. People for Animal Welfare on St. Kitts (PAWS) primarily takes in healthy animals and tries to find them homes. VIDA is a group of volunteers that join up with local veterinarian Dr. Pike to provide veterinary services to community members. One Love Pets (OLP) strives to educate people about the importance of parasite prevention in pets. Many people are unaware that the parasites that pets have (fleas, ticks, intestinal worms, etc) can cause disease in humans as well. It is the goal of OLP to raise awareness to this important fact but to also provide parasite prevention to those in need.
Lenny was called into SAFE's emergency line by a good samaritan who thought that the dog had been hit by a car. SAFE officers found Lenny lying in a ditch barely able to lift his head. Although he seemed to be paralyzed from the neck down, there was no evidence of trauma or other common causes of paralysis. He started making slow improvements over the course of a couple of weeks and then in foster care. With the help of some physical therapy and good old fashioned TLC, he slowly regained his ability to walk. He was one of those SAFE cases that remains a mystery, but SAFE was so happy to be called about him and thrilled to be able to help heal him. If you’re interested in Lenny, you can watch his “Happy Tails” video.
Saving Animals From Emergency (SAFE) concentrates on helping animals that are in emergency situations such as: animals in need or immediate pain relief, animals that will die if left in the situation in which they are in, and animals that will die if they do not receive medical care immediately. SAFE St. Kitts responds to calls, day or night, to help animals in emergent need, whether they are starving, injured, sick, surrendered, or abused. They give the animals much needed medical care, smother them with love, and then once rehabilitated, adopt them to permanent, doting homes.
In the last year, SAFE has rescued 118 animals and has helped many more through their monthly wellness visits made possible thanks to donations to their Angel Fund.
Grace was called into SAFE's emergency line by a community member. She was extremely emaciated and had a front limb injury that was infected, causing the entire leg to swell and the surrounding tissue to die. The SAFE team and the veterinarian decided that Grace’s leg needed to be amputated. First she needed to be stabilized so she'd have a chance to make it through the surgery. After a few days of some good quality food, it was very apparent that Grace was pregnant as well. Because of the pregnancy, Grace was unable to have her leg amputation surgery at that point but instead stayed hospitalized until she gave birth to her pups. Unfortunately the puppies did not survive, likely due to tick-borne illness and malnutrition during the pregnancy. Gracie came through her surgery though and was adopted afterwards by a student.
Through a combination effort of all of the rescue and animal welfare organizations on St. Kitts, change is happening. When Ross alumni return, they are truly amazed and tell the "newbies" stories about not only the perception of animals but the number of stray animals in general that they experienced 5, 10, 15 years ago. They will whole heartedly say that the rescue and animal welfare organizations are making a difference, which makes the current crop of volunteers work even harder to make sure that the community keeps moving in the right direction.
SAFE also works within the community, focusing on St. Kitts youth, and have found their outreach to be a very rewarding and powerful experience. Recently, SAFE and some of their kid-friendly dogs, met with several youngsters from the summer Youth Empowerment Camp. Participants learned about animal welfare, proper ways to approach a dog, how situations vary, and were provided tips on keeping pets happy and healthy.
Many people are unaware of the health advantages of spaying and neutering their pets, not to mention the number of health conditions that can be caused by not doing so (so those of you who don't "fix" your animals because you don't think they'll encounter a sex partner, take note).
Did you know that cock/dog fighting is illegal on St. Kitts? It's a touchy subject to bring up within any community that engages in this type of activity, but SAFE tries to explain that animals feel pain in the same way that humans do and that inflicting pain for sport is something that should be discouraged.
Every month SAFE uses funds raised by One Love Pets to provide parasite prevention to animals in need. The families visited each month have been referred to SAFE by members in their community. Not only does SAFE bring the parasite prevention, but also food and other supplies that the family may need. Since this program is funds based, they cannot help everyone, but this can be easily remedied - by you! All you have to to is buy OLP tags online or at Reggae Beach Bar. It's as simple as that!
Inspired to help?
If you see or hear of an animal in immediate need of medical care, in pain, or left to die, call SAFE at 869-765-4032.
SAFE St. Kitts is also a resource for others wanting to help island animals. Should you find a street animal in need, SAFE offers free supplies to make the rescue easier. Then they'll provide collars, leashes, blankets, toys, bowls, and many other things for those taking in a stray. They'll also offer assistance in getting the animals back to health, such as transportation to the local vet and help with basic grooming. By empowering others to rescue, SAFE knows they can make an even bigger impact on St. Kitts.
If you decide to try to help the animal yourself, be sure to follow the same procedures SAFE follows: Ask anyone around the area where you found the injured animal whether they recognize the animal and know the owner. If the owner can't be found this way, you are required by law to put up LOST flyers for two weeks in the area you found the animal and at all major grocery stores.
Did you find the owner, but he/she can't afford medical care? SAFE's goal is to help community pet owners keep their pets rather than surrender them into the program, so they use SAFE's Angel's Fund to raise money to assist in covering the pet's medical costs. An owner does need to pay for a portion of the medical bill and must allow SAFE to provide follow-up care to the animal.
Of course, SAFE needs funds to draw from, which is where you can come in. If you'd like to donate cash or items (like litter, food, towels, treats, collars, bowls, etc.), simply email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact them via their Facebook page. They'll be happy to pick up any items or cash. or you can donate by credit card or Paypal via their website.
Stay tuned to SAFE's Facebook page so you can attend their Ties and Tails Gala, a semi-formal event that is held around the beginning of the new year. It’s a great opportunity for SAFE to bring the Ross and St. Kitts community together for a fun event benefiting a great cause. They also do smaller fundraisers such as merchandise sales, all of which are advertised on their websites and Facebook pages when the sales are running.
If anyone is interested in becoming more involved in SAFE, they are always looking for fosters (short term, long term, cat only, dog only, etc.). You'll be provided all of the supplies needed for the animal. Any questions regarding fostering can be sent to: email@example.com.
Need incentive? Here are some animals saved in 2016:
Ready to adopt?
Thanks to Stephanye Quinn, President of SAFE St. Kitts, for her time and in-depth answers to what probably felt like endless questions from a fellow animal lover.