Situation of strays in the Caribbean
This report is the result of the research for the article of Juliane Peschel-Paetzold and Philip Alsen „My friend from the beach – When strays vacation with us“ in the magazine Dogs, Edition July/August 2015.
We thank all Caribbean organizations that have supported us or whose websites have given us invaluable information!
Also in the 2/15 edition of the Four Paws magazine Planet an article about strays in the Caribbean was published under Travel Feature:
In comparison to the Mediterranian animal welfare work started quite late in the Caribbean. Most animal welfare organizations were founded only a few years ago, in the end of the 20th or the beginning of the 21st. century. They were founded mostly by North American or European residents who had come to the Caribbean seeking sunshine but soon discovering the dark side of paradise. They are small, lack resources and can’t raise enough donations on the islands. They depend on support from their founders’ countries of origin or from associations outside of the Caribbean, like Aid and Support of Creole dogs . Re-homing possibilities are limited on the islands and into foreign countries often expensive and complicated. There are few shelters; most animals taken from the street are fostered privately by animal welfare activists. Shelters serving as community pounds usually euthanize animals after a certain number of days if they haven’t been adopted or picked up by their owners.
I spent most of the eighties in the Caribbean and always pleasantly noticed the difference to the Mediterranean: Just like in southern Europe the local people weren’t animal lovers but there were simply much less dogs and cats around and therefore less suffering. When I returned to the Caribbean 2003 (to the French Antilles at that time), I was shocked about the surpopulation of strays and their condition. The same observation was made by Madi Collins in Belize when she returned back home to the little island Caye Caulker 2003 after having spent 12 years in New York. She was horrified about the change she saw and founded the organization P.A.W.
Since 2002 the Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference is held regularly, mostly every 4 years and always in a different country, hosted by Humane Society International, Pegasus Foundation, IFAW and others. It is an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience among Caribbean animal welfare groups.
Spay and Neuter
In recent years everywhere efforts have increased to control stray populations by spay and neuter. Vets from USA and Canada and vets sent by Aid and Support of Creole dogs from Germany are volunteering. The problem is the incredible quantity of animals vets and organizations have to face. On the average the number of dogs on an island equals a fourth of the human population, on some islands there are more… The number of animals being spayed and neutered during an operative doesn’t depend on the vets alone but also on the availability of medication and materials. So far the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t been very helpful!
There are rules and regulations to be observed, differing from island to island, in order to obtain permission for volunteering vets to work and to import the necessary medication and materials. On quite a number of islands animal welfare organizations are forced to work with local vets only which lowers the numbers of animals getting spayed and neutered.
Apart from the fact that vets in more isolated areas (if they exist at all) often are not accomplished surgeons, local vets are forced to live in part of animal welfare. They don’t have middle class clients that take their pets to the vet so they have to demand a fee and the price of the material used during surgery. And even if it is little in comparison to the costs of spay and neuter in industrialized countries it amounts to unaffordable sums for animal welfare groups when thinking about large-scale operatives. Among the foreign vets that have taken residence in the Caribbean there are many that don’t care about animal welfare and demand nearly the same prices as they would in their home countries.
So far only a few per cent of the animals are spayed and neutered on each island. It is only possible to begin at one location to spay and neuter as many animals as possible and, once the population is under control, to continue from there, reaching out to neighbouring areas. But this only works if the local people are being informed and educated at the same time about the benefits of spay and neuter. If the persecution of neutered animals continues they can’t occupy and defend their territory that fills up immediately again with fertile animals looking for food. Learning to understand the reasons for spay and neuter takes some time:
Local people often project their own sexualitiy onto their animals even if they don’t give animals much thought otherwise. Men tend to oppose vehemently the neutering of male dogs while women are horrified at the sight of a pregnant bitch being spayed. The common way to deal with unwanted offsprings is to abandon them at lonely places to die of hunger and thirst or, if possible, near areas frequented by North Americans and Europeans who are known to care for animals.
This should be looked upon rather as helplessness than cruelty. Local people often shrink from killing puppies and kittens with their own hands although sadists exist of course as well who take pleasure in pouring acid over animals, setting them on fire or mutilating them with machetes. Illegal dog and cock fights are still very popular in many places.
The best advertising for spay and neuter are the animals of locals that have been operated already. Neighbours notice that suddenly these families no longer have to deal with unwanted puppies and kittens, the men are proud of their male dogs that gain weight, get a shiny coat and don’t appear to be less manly at all!
Life condition of Caribbean strays
Stray populations are found in two extremely different locations:
In the centers of tourism and in rural and urban areas of great poverty and low level of income, education and life standard. Large stray populations exist everywhere where there is enough garbage, the main source of nutrition of stray animals. Particularly near touristic enterprises they find a lot of waste and meet friendly tourists that feed them. In local areas the animals often have owners who let them run free to look for food and mate. Houses rarely have fences, there is no money for that.
At first sight these animals differ in no way from real strays and their surviving offsprings become often really homeless animals that roam in small groups or alone (for instance strong males or bitches with puppies wanting to give their litter a better chance of survival). Hunger, thirst, the search for a safe place to rest and the drive to reproduce rule their short lives, constantly threatened by human persecution, poison, traffic…
A 3 year old Caribbean stray is old, a 4-5 year old is ancient, very few reach this age. With 8 month a bitch goes into heat for the first time and has litters at least twice a year until she dies. Only very few of the puppies survive to grow up. After 4 - 5 weeks the bitches have no more milk, there is no food that is digestable for puppies, no de-wormer, no vaccination…, and the puppies die by the thousands from parasites, leptospiroses, distemper, hunger and thirst. The few survivors continue the cycle.
The most common diseases among adult dogs are ehrlichiosis, heart worm, lung worm, mange. The typical Mediterranean diseases like leishmaniose and babiose don’t exist. Sick looking, particularly mangy dogs are beaten and chased away by locals who are scared of them until they die, often not from the disease but from starvation and exhaustion. The general condition of the dogs is often bad but depends on the availability of food. In tourist centers during the season one meets also well-fed animals. But friendly tourists who feed dogs and treat them with affection are also a great risk for the animals. Once they are gone, the dogs that have gained confidence in humans search the same with other people… and become the first victims of poisonings.
Only few hotels cooperate with animal welfare groups up to now and wherever animals aren’t being spayed and neutered they are being poisoned! Even if hotel managers assert the opposite! With access to the waste of affluent tourists animal populations would explode otherwise. And since the territory is immediately occupied again by newcomers poisonings have to take place regularly, preferably before and after the season, unnoticed by tourists…
The legal situation
The Caribbean consists of a large number of different island states and the legal situation differs greatly on the various islands. Most islands are independent today but the colonial history is still present everywhere. The French Antilles belong to France, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to the USA. On these islands the French respectively American animal welfare laws are in force, laws that are already inadequate in the countries of origin and much more so in overseas departments or states that politically belong to these industrialized nations but have all features of developing countries and no cultural similarities at all. On the independent islands animal welfare laws don’t exist or are outdated or have been passed only recently and are largely unknown; in any case they are neither being enforced nor observed.
Attempts to impose obligations like chipping or licensing for companion animals also hold the danger to lead to more chained up, abandoned and euthanized animals. Aid and Support of Creole dogs envisage a solution that is more fitting for the Caribbean and the mentality of its people. Instead of taking animals out of public sight in a region where a large part of life takes place outdoors we want to teach people to love and respect animals and treat them properly together with our local partners so that animals can lead a better life in their communities, either with their families or taken care of at monitored feeding places. There are already some animal welfare groups, for example in the north of the Dominican Republic, who run phantastic community outreach projects where members visit poor areas regularly, inform people about spay and neuter, treat their animals against parasites, take them to the vet, bring food and also try to help humans as far as possible. A school program for humane education as it exists already on Dominica could be a great support for such projects and help to raise a generation that can take over many tasks in animal welfare in their communities as adults.
How tourists can help animals in the Caribbean
Few tourists will ever enter the poor people’s areas with their corrugated-iron huts lacking any sanitary facilities. But in the centers of tourism they are the strongest weapon animal welfare has in the battle for the rights of poor animals in the Caribbean because tourism is the only industry on the islands and the tourists have the power to influence the situation if they voice themselves clearly and speak up firmly for the animals!
1) In the name of all Caribbean animal welfare organizations that have participated in this report we ask tourists visiting the Caribbean: Inform yourself before you travel about the animal welfare organizations at your holiday destination here and support them with a donation so that animals can be spayed and neutered and emergencies can be dealt with. Visit our online travel guide Animal-friendly hotels in the Caribbean. Maybe you find here the resort for your next vacation. For further information or if you have any questions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org/ Phone:0049 (0)9952 2311
2) Ask your hotel to cooperate with the local animal welfare groups, to get the animals on the hotel grounds and at the beach spayed and neutered and to set up feeding places. ( Our project Tourism and Animal welfare offers hotels spay and neuter of the animals around the resorts, further care at feeding places including medical care, flyers informing tourists about what is done for the animals, how the local animal welfare group can be contacted, and requesting to feed animals nowhere else but at the official feeding places.) Let the hotel know that your return depends on the fulfillment of your requests and that you will share your experiences with friends and family and in social networks. Report your experiences on sites like holidaycheck or tripadvisor but particularly also on our doku wiki Tourists report: Whereas we had some complaints that comments of animal lovers disappeared quickly from sites like tripadvisor and others, they will remain indefinitely on Tourists report and be brought to the attention of hotels and travel operators. If you have questions about the use of the wiki docu contact: email@example.com
3) If you find an animal in need of help during your vacation, don’t look away! Contact the nearest animal welfare organization and cover the costs of the rescue, for example the vet’s bill and the fostering til adoption. Whereas you may find one needy animal during your holiday the animal welfare groups deal with hundreds continuously. Make certain that the organization doesn’t euthanize, if in doubt contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you fall in love with an animal and want to adopt it, contact the local animal welfare group and make sure the animal has a foster place before you leave for the time needed to prepare the animal for the journey and pay for the fostering. To bring an animal into the European Union from a country that doesn’t belong to the European Union for example, is a lengthy and quite costly procedure but it is always worth it when you love your pet! Contact: email@example.com. Aid and Support of Creole dogs will help you together with the local welfare group to prepare your animal medically and deal with all formalities til the arrival of the animal. Never feed an animal thoughtlessy during your vacation and then just leave it behind, uncared for. That is its certain death!
Information about individual islands
A survey in 2012 showed an estimated number of 20.000 stray dogs in the Bahamas. Currently a new survey is taking place and Baark will publish its result as soon as possible. There is a government-financed pound with an average of 50 euthanasias weekly; Baark hopes that this number may have declined to 5 – 10 meanwhile but this has not been confirmed.
There are 2 more shelters, one in Freeport and one in Nassau operated by the Bahamas Humane Society. The latter has applied for the status of a no kill shelter recently.
Most strays have owners that don’t care about them, let them run free and don’t get them spayed and neutered. There is a small number of real strays, shy but not aggressive.
Most strays live in the center of Nassau and in the poor people’s areas where poverty and lack of education are the reasons why people don’t take care of their animals.
The legal situation has improved during the past 20 years. Also there are still many cases of animal abuse and neglect, their number has decreased.2012 a new animal welfare law has been passed to replace the one from 1960 but it isn’t being enforced.
But the awareness concerning animal rights and animal welfare has grown considerably. There are national and international organizations that supply vets and medical equipment for spay and neuter of poor people‘s animals who can’t afford the surgery.
With their help Baark spayed and neutered 3547 animals between 2009 - 2012 and 2315 dogs and cats in 2013, 1184 dogs and cats in 2014 and in 2015 at the time of this report 406 cats.
A distemper epidemic in late summer 2014 killed about 1000 - 5000 dogs, the real number is difficult to estimate because most dogs never saw a vet.
Resource: Aniplant, founded 2007.
There is no information about the number of dogs and cats that live in Cuba. Aniplant, since 2010 also registered in USA, is the only animal welfare organization that has permission to work in Cuba. In Cuba only one non-profit organization is allowed in each field by law. Aniplant is subordinated to the ministry of agriculture as well as all Cuban veterinarians. There are no shelters but some private people in Havana foster animals. In the east of Havana there is the killing pound where government-employed dog catchers deliver their victims. The animals are poisoned with strychnine, other methods are considered to be too expensive. Electric shocks are also used. 13-15.000 animals were killed there annually. Since Aniplant started to spay and neuter the number of killings has declined to 9600 per year. Aniplant spayed and neutered in 2007 500 dogs and cats, in 2008 1000 animals, in 2009 over 2000, in 2010 over 3000, in 2011 over 4000 and since 2012 more than 5000 animals annually.
For a while Aniplant had several veterinary practices in Havana where low-cost treatments were offered to poor people. That led to conflicts with the local vets that were afraid to loose clients. Now Aniplant operates only one practice that opens 2 days in the week and a mobile spay and neuter clinic. A wonderful pioneering project takes place in Old Havana: The museums there have adopted a great number of the strays that have all been spayed and neutered by Aniplant. In the evenings they follow the whistle of a policeman who guides them home:
The project is growing. Meanwhile Cuba’s Central Bank, a public toilet, a Communist Party gas station, the offices of the Cuban Journalists’ Union and a mechanical workshop of the Ministry of Public Health participate. The animals benefitting from the program have a place to sleep, food and medical care. They wear collars with ID cards attached showing their photo, name, address, telephone number and the info that they are spayed or neutered. This way they are protected from Havana's dog catchers.
Verein zur Hilfe und Förderung des kreolischen Hundes e.V.
Fundación Pets Breeding Control
Associazione suizzera per l'aiuto e il supporto dei cani creoli
There are about 2.4 million strays in the Dominican Republic. There are a growing number of small animal welfare organizations founded by American, Canadian, German or Latin American residents and also by Dominicans who are aware of the plight of the animals in their home country and try their best to improve the situation.
The Asociasión de los Amigos por los Animales de Sosúa at the north coast of the Dominican Republic, founded in 1998 and operating an own spay and neuter clinic since 2008, is probably the oldest animal welfare organization in the whole of the Dominican Republic. Today there are several small groups in this region and others in Puerto Plata, Samaná, Bayahibe, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, all with very limited means, that spay and neuter dogs and cats with the help of foreign volunteering vets and also some local vets of whom some have meanwhile founded their own animal welfare organizations demanding a fee of 15 – 30 US$ per surgery. There are no organizations and hardly any vets – no surgeons at all! – in the underdeveloped southwest, the poorest part of the country. Aid and Support of Creole dogs has started to work there in 2014 with an annual spay and neuter clinic.
About 20.000 - 25.000 animals may have been spayed and neutered by now in total. In the north animal welfare groups try to improve the quality of the animals‘ lives by visiting poor people’s areas regularly, treating the animals against parasites (preventing thus also some of the most common diseases), taking them to the vet when ill or injured or ready to get neutered, bringing food and educating people. In the region of Sosúa/Cabarete there are already several thousand animals that profit from these community outreach projects. There are no shelters funded by the government or communities but 5 – 6 small shelters run by animal welfare groups or privately operated by animal welfare activists with a shelter capacitiy of only a few hundred animals in total. There are all types of strays, in the cities, suburbs, villages, at the beaches, with or without owners, abandoned, gone wild, in groups or single. Most of them live in poor communities or city slums, everywhere where there is poverty, little education and a lot of garbage. They live of garbage, tear up garbage bags, knock over garbage bins, live at dumps. There where they appear in large numbers and are considered as a plague people beat them, kick them, chase them away, run over them with cars for fun, pour acid over them or gasoline and set them on fire or drown them after sticking them into in plastic bags. But they live also at the beaches and around the hotels of the waste of the affluent and the friendliness of tourists, constantly threatened by poisoned baits. Poisonings take place regularly to reduce their numbers.
Puppies are being abandoned as well as pregnant bitches and sick or sick looking animals of which Dominicans are afraid. While on many small Caribbean islands rabies is non-existent, it is an issue in the Dominican Republic.
Here official surveys and reports about documented cases of rabies and vaccination campaigns between 2006 - 2008:
Article in the local newspaper "HOY" from 2006:
Report from the Ministry of Public Health on rabies:
Report from the Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference 2008:
Animal welfare groups vaccinate against rabies as much as possible.
The pharmaceutical industry is not willing to donate the needed quantity of rabies vaccines to poor developing countries!!!
The Dominican animal welfare law 248-12 was passed on November 23rd 2011
Here an excerpt:
a) Prohibited practices and operations at prohibited locations.
b) Surgery without anaesthesia. Surgeries have to be performed by a veterinary. Everybody may help in emergencies but has to justify himself afterwards.
c) The keeping of animals in a way that causes its death or permanent suffering.
The following offenses are punished with 1- 3 months jail or a fine of 5.000 - 20.000 Pesos, in severe cases with 3 - 6 month jail or a fine of 25.000 - 50.000 Pesos:
Trading of puppies in the streets or in markets, abuse of animals, chaining dogs with choking collars, poisoning animals.
Sick animals have to be shown a veterinary. Only a veterinary is allowed to euthanize an animal.
Everybody is obliged to help a suffering animal and bring it to a veterinary. The owner has to refund expenses of examination and treatment if handed a receipt.
Animal experiments and drug experiments with animals are prohibited.
The owner of an abused/mistreated animal can reach a private agreement with the offender.
Government, police and military are obliged to protect suffering animals.
This law, ambitious, vague and full of loopholes exists mainly on paper and has rarely been enforced yet. In parts of the Dominican Republic illiteracy is not uncommon among poor people. A lot of them don’t even know that such a law exists.
There are about 1 million dogs and 2 million cats in Puerto Rico. 2011 about 100.000 dogs roamed the streets of San Juan, today there are 250.000. There are about 15 small animal welfare organizations, 5 small, poor, poorly equipped and understaffed shelters and at least 4 killing pounds in which around 90.000 animals are killed annually with inhumane methods by staff that have no medical training. Actually the 78 Puerto Rican communities have the legal obligation to maintain a shelter each…
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory without own foreign politics. Puerto Ricans can only participate in US elections if they have a residence in a US state outside of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is autonomous regarding home affairs, has a local constitution and its citizens elect a governor. Foreign vets, even from the US, are not permitted to volunteer and only a few local vets support animal welfare and offer reduced prices which minimizes the possibilities to spay and neuter. 2013 Amigos de los Animales were happy about 280 surgeries.
As on all islands there are strays with owners and others that were born in the streets but in Puerto Rico one finds a particularly large number of abandoned dogs and among them surprisingly many purebreds. Puerto Rico has 450 pet shops, plus backyard breeders and puppy mills. A lot of people buy dogs and get rid of them quickly again. They take them to killing pounds or abandon them in the streets or at beaches like the dreadful Playa Lucia at the south-east coast near Yabucoa, known as “Dead dog beach”: An old port opposite a Shell oilrig, uncontrolled and accessible to everybody, is a favorite place to abandon dogs, to “train” pit bills with cruel methods and to indulge in torturing the poor, starving, thirsty, mangy dogs that live there. Especially adolescents enjoy to mutilate them, to pour boiling oil over them or use them as targets for both cars and guns…
The government does nothing to support animal welfare or punish animal abuse; unspeakable cruelties practiced by government agents such as pet raids in apartment buildings and public housing with a no-pet-policy are routine. The agents go from door to door, grab the terrified pets from the arms of their crying, screaming owners, threatenting them with eviction, inject the animals unknown chemicals and kill them afterwards with unimaginable brutality.
A real massacre happened during such a raid in 2007. The animals were slammed against cars and thrown of a bridge, 20 meters high. The owners found their dead and dying pets at the foot of the bridge. A federal law suit was filed and it became apparent that this was a common practice. In the face of these limited possibilities to better the life of animals in Puerto Rico organizations like Amigos de los Animales and the initiative Petfinder try to encourage tourists to adopt animals. The export of pets to the USA is very simple and over 1000 animals have found a loving forever home there.
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Residents of the US Virgin Islands are legally obligated to register their dogs, a law that locals don’t observe. Therefore the number of dogs living on St. Thomas is unknown.
Statistics of the Humane Society St. Thomas for 2013 and 2014:
The Humane Society St Thomas serves also as community pound and is officially contracted to trap strays. There are no large stray dog populations on St. Thomas in comparison to the numerous feral cats the lives of which the Lucky Paw Foundation tries to improve with the very successful cat café program.
Dogs are being kept 5 days in the shelter. The Pets on Wings Program of the St.Thomas Humane Society and Wings (US Airways) attempts to lower the number of euthanasias : Adoptable animals are flown to US shelters with free capacities. But the flights cost money and the Humane Society St.Thomas is constantly searching sponsors and volunteers willing to accompany the animals on their flights to give more animals a chance of survival in the USA:
Most strays are found in poor people’s areas where their owners let them run free and at the dump where they look for food. Often neighbours bring the animals to the shelter, annoyed about dogs on their property. More education is needed and a government-funded spay and neuter program. Poor people can’t afford to spay and neuter their animals; they take unwanted puppies and kittens to the shelter instead!
Since the Lucky Paw Foundation started the cat café program where cats are fed, trapped, spayed and neutered and released again, the number of cats ending in the shelter has dropped about 17% and although the Lucky Paw Foundation is an organization for cats it is getting involved now also in low cost or free of charge spay and neuter for dogs of poor families.
The island of Nevis is a tiny dot on the map of the Caribbean, federated with the island of St Kitts. The island is home to approximately 11,000 human residents, around 2000 feral donkeys, 1000s of cats and dogs- many homeless, and the biggest population on the island is the green vervet monkey with an incredible number of approx. 30,000. ! Nevis markets itself as an upmarket tourist destination with its old colonial style Plantation Inns and the luxury Four Seasons resort located on Pinney’s beach. Sounds a wonderful place to visit and take your family on vacation… right? Absolutely yes… IF you are a two legged animal. Four legged animals, sea creatures and birds have a very different story to tell… if only they could talk.
If you are an animal lover with eyes and ears open. During your vacation time on Nevis you will encounter sights that will have you questioning the ‘upscale’ friendly island of Nevis. The animal rescue group CARE Nevis Animal Society has catalogued hundreds of emails and phone calls from distressed tourists who have encountered, starving dogs, skinny kitties, dogs tied up on 4 foot chains in yards and fields, feral donkeys with broken legs, dragging their injured limb tortuously along the roadsides , cows with foot rot and skin conditions and encountering victims of the several dog fighting rings on the island being forced to swim in the shallows with heavy chains around their necks as “training” or worse, the losing victim, hanging from a tree.
Sheep and goats roam freely around the island which you might think is ‘cute’ but some owners of livestock animals, and others, are very guilty of deliberately dropping poisoned pieces of meat along the beaches and even throwing them into people’s yards where they have their dogs, claiming that dogs attack livestock. The government does nothing to stop these barbaric poisonings, turning blind eyes and deaf ears to the cries of the owners of hundreds of poisoned animals. The animal rescue organisation CARE Nevis is working to reduce the number of stray dogs and in collaboration with World Vets hosted two mass spay neuter clinics in 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately their efforts are not valued and future mass spay-neuter events to help remedy the overpopulation of cats and dogs have been rejected and their project to set up a new small animal clinic and shelter has been stonewalled by government ministers and civil servants.
Animals on Nevis have the status of personal ‘Property’. There are no animal protection laws in place, animals have no rights. Many ‘pastors’ on Nevis preach that animals have no soul and therefore it doesn’t matter how they are treated! The old British animal cruelty laws were rescinded in 2007 and replaced by the Animal Control Act in 2007, but never enacted. The excuse always being no funds are available to train and pay animal control officers to enforce the laws. Supposedly dog fighting is still illegal, but dogs fighting takes place around the island at weekends and there are several backyard breeders breeding pit bulls expressly for dog fighting rings. Hundreds of dogs and cats are poisoned every month, animals are beaten, abused, poisoned, mauled in dog fights, hung or drowned and no-one cares. It has become ‘NORMAL’ for your dog to be poisoned on Nevis! Nevis Tourism hides the fate of animals and the poor state of their welfare from the tourists, but animal lovers see what others don’t see. Feral donkeys suffer with no-one to take care of them, discarded trash affects pelicans, turtles and other sea creatures who become entangled or choke on plastic. Stray kittens, puppies and their mothers straggle out onto the beaches and local streets in search of food. It shouldn’t be like this.
In May and June 2017 the government put a bounty on the heads of free living donkeys to be collected when delivering a carcass at the dump!
To voice your concerns email:
Resource: Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society (http://www.antiguaanimals.com/about us.htm), founded 1991
The early history of the organization shows how much influence tourists can have on animal welfare in the Caribbean: The young association had just begun its work when a member heard a parliamentary debate on the radio about the stray dog problem. The minister of agriculture had a simple solution: “We shoot them all!”
The animal welfare activists knew there was no time to wait til educating the local people would show results. They started a campaign to sensitize the members of the government for the effects a mass shooting of animals would have on Antiguan economy. Countless letters from tourists were collected which stated that, no matter how much the tourists loved the island, its people and its beaches, they would not return to a place where animals had to suffer so much. The ministers were shocked: What had appeared to be a simple solution was going to hurt the island’s economy! The Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society offered to help with the problem and received permission to spay and neuter…
This shows how important tourists are for animal welfare in the Caribbean! In many places animal welfare isn’t possible at all without them!
There are about 30.000 dogs in Antigua and Barbuda. Most of them have owners that let them run free. They visit tourists at beaches and restaurants, get spoiled and cuddled and return home in the evening. They gather at the dock where the cruise ships stop first thing in the morning, spend the day with the tourists, get fed and follow them around as if they belonged to them. At 4:00 in the afternoon, when the cruise ships leave, the dogs go home. The owners don’t even know that their dogs had been gone when they return from work. Unfortunately these free running dogs are also a nuisance, knocking over garbage bins, getting into fights and leaving their excrements on the sidewalks and at the beaches.
2006 the Dogs Registration & Control Act was passed: All dogs over 6 months have to be chipped and registered and wear collars with tags. All dogs have to be on their owners’ property or under his control at all times.
Since then 5000 dogs have been chipped and registered, most of them during spay and neuter campaigns. About10.000 animals have been spayed and neutered since the Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society exists. Regular clinics offer low cost surgeries. Since May 2014 the Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society works together with the US organization Caribe Spay Neuter making high volume campaigns possible with 200-300 surgeries. The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society demands a government-funded shelter that shall be no killing pound. Animals that aren’t picked up by their owners within a certain time shall be transferred to the shelter of the Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society for re-homing. Only incurable ill or aggressive animals shall be euthanized. The Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society doesn’t try to re-home animals outside of Antigua because the large numbers of euthanized animals in shelters of industrialized countries are well-known: 2.7millions annually alone in the United States of America!
Resources: Verein zur Hilfe und Förderung des kreolischen Hundes e.V.
The French islands are a part of France as „départements d’outre mer“ and the French laws are in force. In France the straying of animals is against the law and any animal seen in a distance of more than 200 metres from the next building, even a cat, is considered to be a stray and can be taken to the communal pound by anybody. All companion animals have to be chipped , tattoed and registered once they are older than 4 months – that is when breeders and pet shops have mostly sold their merchandise already and there are many private pet keepers who don’t observe this law. Every community has to operate a pound or contract commercial pound operators who may have contracts with an unlimited number of communities as long as the pound offers enough space for the found or caught animals of all communities they have contracts with. They get paid a flat rate depending on the number of residents of a community; the owners have to pay for the upkeep and transportation of their animals when they pick them up and are fined for letting their animals stray. Some pound operators have contracts with up to 30 communities. The animals shall be kept for 8 days during which the pound operators are obliged to try to locate the animals‘owners. There have been cases reported where this rule wasn’t observed. If the animal isn‘t chipped or tattoed it is almost impossible to retrieve it even if the owners search desperately: Most of these pounds are closed to the public, far away from the communities where the animals come from and their locations are unknown to the public. After 8 days the animals can be legally killed or transferred to a shelter of an animal welfare organization to be re-homed, in case any shelter has capacities to receive them. Communal/commercial pounds are not allowed to re-home animals, animal welfare organizations are not allowed to take strays from the streets because they are “property of the communities”. These laws cause the death of many young and healthy animals every year in France. Officially about 50.000 animals are euthanized in pounds each year, unofficially it’s ten times more. In the French Antilles where this period of grace is lowered from 8 to 4 days „because of the special circumstances“ these laws make trap/neuter/release projects and further care of neutered animals at feeding places impossible.
The French law permits every animal welfare organization to operate a clinic where the animals of poor people can be treated and spayed and neutered free of charge. But it has to be a permanent clinic, temporary or mobile clinics are not permitted. The SPA France, the biggest French animal welfare organization, operates several such clinics, one in Guyana, but none in the French Antilles. There are all sorts of strays on the French islands, in the cities, in the villages, on the beaches (although animals are generally not allowed at French beaches!), strays with owners, abandoned animals, animals gone wild. French people staying only a limited time on the islands, for example as seasonal workers, often adopt cute little puppies from the street and just as often the animals land back on the street when their owners leave the country. But one finds also an above-average number of chained dogs on the French islands.
Often dogs are chained up as puppies with chains that are locked with padlocks which are never opened again until the chains have grown into the flesh of the dogs‘ necks causing terrible wounds. Often the chains are not longer than a meter. Often the animals get food and water only once a week. Mostly they don’t have any shelter from the tropical sun and the torrential rains. There are cases known where thirsty chained dogs have strangulated themselves in the desperate attempt to reach the water of the nearest puddle. Once they are too apathetic or old to bark anymore and serve as guard dogs, they are abandoned. Communities finance the death of thousands of animals each year.
According to official statement there were about 100.000 dogs on Martinique in 2006, including the well-kept pets of animal-loving French residents. There are 2 small animal welfare organizations on Martinique: The RSP- Martinique, capable to shelter about 17 dogs and as many cats and re-homing about 250 animals per year at the most, some on Martinique, but most of them in France, the S.O.S. Animaux de Compagnie who work with foster places and the killing pound in St. Luce with a capacity to euthanize more than 100 animals daily according to own statement. The poisoning of thousands of dogs is financed by the communities with money from the public sector and also private people place poisoned baits again and again at all sorts of locations. Among the victims of these poisonings there are also always dogs with owners who take their pets for a walk (on the leash!). Dog catchers come when called or ordered to places with larger numbers of strays, lure the hungry animals with food, stun them, throw them on trucks and cart them away to their death.
Spay and neuter: Every few years the Brigitte Bardot Fondation and the SPA France sponsor a campaign with around 10.000 Euro for 100 animals on the average: During this campaign people can take their animals to a vet of their choice, together with a certificate that they can buy at the RSP-Martinique and the proof of their income. Middle class people pay two thirds of the price for the surgery and the chipping of the animal, poor people only one third, the rest is paid by the sponsor. Vets demand, depending on the size of the animal and if it is pregnant or not, up to 280 Euro. After 100 surgeries the 10.000 Euro of the sponsors are usually spent.
On St. Martin some animals profit from the fact that there are several vets on the formerly Dutch side, in St. Maarten, who spay and neuter animals all year round when shown a certificate that can be bought from animal welfare groups for 20 US$. They operate also animals that are brought from the French side across the open border.
We have no information about the number of dogs and cats living on Guadeloupe but it is certainly much higher than on Martinique. Visitors of this island won’t notice that Guadeloupe has one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the Caribbean but they will hardly miss the numerous emaciated, mangy, injured and mutilated dogs everywhere in the streets or on the beaches, with eyes and ears inflamed and sticky from the sand. There is not a single shelter on Guadeloupe but 5 killing pounds. Guadeloupe has a long infamous history of mass killings and poisonings of its strays.
1995 3000 dogs were caught at night with lassos and killed with poisonous injections. Witnesses reported that the desperate animals tried to escape into the public sewers where their tormentors didn’t dare to follow them, scared of the rats that live there. After this tourists were asked to boycott Guadeloupe. Since its foundation the Societé de Protection Animale de la Guadeloupe is fighting a tough, never-ending, heartbreaking battle against the ignorance, stubbornness and brutality of the authorities and the veterinarians who care only about their profit. There have been petitions and endless negotiations with the authorities and the veterinarians, the latter declared spay and neuter of strays to be impossible – despite the successes on other Caribbean islands!
2003 I visited Guadeloupe myself and talked to veterinarians and owners of veterinary clinics, horrified at the sight of the mass misery on the streets. I was told that negotiations with the authorities were underway to obtain a suitable location and the means to finance spay and neuter of strays. 2004 the AVPLG (l’Association des Vétérinaires Praticiens Libéraux de la Guadeloupe), the organization of the in Guadeloupe practicing veterinarians received 1 Million Euro from the communities to spay and neuter dogs with owners who had to pay now a reduced price of 80 Euro instead the usual 260 Euro for the spaying of a bitch and 40 Euro for the neutering of a male as long as the million lasted to cover the difference! Not a single stray was neutered!
The straying of animals is in France forbidden by law. Therefore trap/neuter/release projects and the further care of strays at feeding places is impossible.
As long as France doesn’t change its totally inadequate laws there is no hope for the strays of the French Antilles. In view of these laws the statement of the French veterinarians declaring spay and neuter of strays as impossible is correct!
2004 the small animal welfare organization Ti Racoon opened an unauthorized shelter on Guadeloupe for 150 animals to force authorities to recognize the necessity of a shelter for suffering animals. They were forced by the authorities to euthanize all animals. 44 dogs could be saved and re-homed with the help of the Societé de Protection Animale de la Guadeloupe.
Currently there is a petition on AVAAZ.org: Stop au massacre des chiens et des chats! Guadeloupe`= Roumanie! / Stop to massacre the dogs and cats of Guadeloupe! Guadeloupe, that is like Romania!
For years national and international animal welfare organizations have been offering their help to spay and neuter strays on Guadeloupe. Neither the prefect nor the mayors or the communities have gone to the trouble to even answer! They insist on maintaining the French system of privately operated pounds financed by the communities - wasting incredible amounts of taxpayers‘ money, encouraged by the Direction des Services Vétérinaires, the French veterinarians who earn a lot of money with this system since they are the ones that kill the animals:
The community Morne à l'Eau pays 320 Euro for each euthanasia, the community Baie Mahault pays 100.000 Euro annually to the pound. 2-3000 animals die each year in the pounds. A profitable business, also for the veterinarians who haven’t the least interest to change this system which is totally ineffective for the stray population control on an island where daily 600 puppies are born! There is no information about the number of kittens.
Dominica is a poor island that doesn’t profit as much from tourism as other islands because the white sandy beaches are lacking on this mountainous volcanic island with its steep, rocky coast, tropical forests and wild rivers. Hotels here offer wellness programs and eco tourism.
In 2005 the Humane Society Dominica was penniless but ingenious! They developed a school program for humane education that is unsurpassed in the Caribbean and beyond, the development of which is continuously progressing and includes beside a standard curriculum programs addressing everybody from preschool children to adults including workshops, summer camps and more. They still lack the means for a shelter or the much needed mobile clinic. More than13.000 children were taught in 2014 to love and respect animals and treat them right. The Humane Society of Dominica is forced to work with local vets only who vehemently oppose that foreign volunteering vets come to the island for spay and neuter campaigns because they are afraid to loose clients. That of course minimizes the possibilities of stray population control by spay and neuter. 2015 the Humane Society Dominica tries to raise EC $ 20.000, that is about 7566 US$ for 100 surgeries meaning that spaying or neutering one single animal costs more than 75 US$, much too much for poor people and animal welfare groups alike!
There is no information about the number of dogs on Dominica. Most local people let their dogs run free. One sees them in the city and in the villages; most of them have owners. They return home at night, are fed once a day if they are lucky; otherwise they fend for themselves and mate uncontrolled. Many people in Dominica don’t understand the importance of spay and neuter yet. Puppies are left to themselves. The survivors form sometimes packs that roam the streets of the city or live hidden in more isolated areas that Dominica’s nature offers. There is an animal welfare law which isn’t being enforced and there are no government-imposed obligations to register dogs or control proliferation.
There are about 200.000 strays in Jamaica. Food is scarce, so they move mostly alone or in small groups, rarely in packs. Most of them live in the streets, near public markets and hotel beaches, everywhere, where they hope to find food. Most of them are in bad condition, skinny, with mange and wounds infested by parasites. There are 3 shelters in Jamaica; The Animalhouse Jamaica at the north-coast with a shelter capacity of about 200 animals and a no-kill-policy, the private shelter Montego Bay Haven in Montego Bay with a capacity for 60 animals and the Jamaican Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals in Kingston, founded already in 1904,with own veterinary clinic.
The JSPCA is associated with the British RSPCA and sees it as their responsibility to try to improve the situation in private kennels, at race courses and slaughterhouses as well as investigating reported cases of animal abuse and neglect.
The JSPCA runs a humane education program teaching the right treatment and care of animals. They visit 4 – 8 schools each month and have also courses for adults held in police stations or other suitable locations. Regularly spay and neuter clinics are held in low-income areas. The JSPCA has also a mobile clinic. About 100 animals enter the JSPCA shelter monthly, mostly dogs and cats brought by their owners. All animals that aren’t adopted within a certain time are euthanized. The JSPCA holds monthly adoption events to lower this number including counselling for the new owners. All animals are spayed/neutered, treated against parasites and examined by a vet when they are put up for adoption.
Also international organizations spay and neuter in Jamaica, for instance the American organization International Spay Neuter Network. The Sandals Foundation of the Jamaican hotel group Sandals Resorts which cares very much about all social issues in Jamaica and the Caribbean supports these spay and neuter campaigns in Jamaica as well as in the Bahamas. Still only a few per cent of the dogs and cats living on Jamaica have been spayed and neutered so far. There are quite a few vets on Jamaica and also a veterinary association but the local vets have little interest in animal welfare and their prices for spay and neuter are much too high.
The Jamaican animal welfare law is outdated, it stems from 1908. The regulations concerning the operating of kennels and the paragraph against animal abuse were passed in 1965. There are efforts from animal welfare groups to have this law improved and modernized, with more severe penalties for animals abuse and neglect.
There is no rabies on Jamaica and because authorities are afraid to import the virus it is not permitted to bring in the vaccine, making it very difficult to re-home animals into Europe. Such animals have to be transferred first to the USA or Canada where animals from countries free of rabies are accepted even without vaccination. There they have to get vaccinated and must stay for one month until they can continue their journey.
St. Vincent & Grenadines
St. Vincent has at least as many dogs as human residents according to the VSPCA:
In 2013 103.000 people lived on St. Vincent.
The Grenadines belong to St. Vincent of which the following are inhabited:
Bequia: 5000 residents
Mustique: 800 residents
Canouan: 1200 residents
Mayreau: 280 residents
Union Island: 2700 residents
That amounts to roughly 113 000 dogs according to this estimate. Most of them run free; there are hardly any fenced in properties. There are strays with and without owners; those with owners often wear makeshift collars. The only shelter is on Union Island and there are some private people who foster animals. Strays are everywhere where they find food or some shelter; in abandoned buildings, underneath bridges, in canals. The communal dump is a preferred place to abandon dogs. It is the only place where they find enough garbage to survive in packs. Usually 2 – 3 dogs roam together in search of food. The animal welfare law of St. Vincent & Grenadines is in force since 1947, has never been enforced and therefore hasn’t influenced the situation during the past 20 years, neither for the better nor for the worse.
The condition of the true strays is miserable, the condition of straying dogs with owners varies depending on how they are fed. Sometimes they get leftovers from the table but mostly only white rice. Since 2011 the VSPCA has spayed and neutered 1100 animals free of charge, the biggest challenge being to convince the people of the benefits of spay and neuter. 4-5 % of the animals were diagnosed with diseases transmitted by mating, like sticker sarcoma. The VSPCA has 3 vets and a van used as mobile clinic. They extend their efforts also to the small Grenadine islands Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mayreau.
The Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, GSPCA, was founded 1936 as Royal SPCA and is the only animal welfare organization on Grenada. The GSPCA has a veterinary clinic and a shelter with limited space for animals to be re-homed in St. George, the capitol of Grenada. There is no accurate information about the number of dogs living on Grenada but at the Caribbean Animal Welfare Conference in 2008 the GSPCA stated that they spayed and neutered 1200 animals annually, about 1 per cent of the island’s population. The animal welfare law of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique stems from the sixties of the last century, is outdated and of course rarely enforced.
2015 we were contacted by a tourist returning from a Caribbean cruise who remarked upon the particularly bad condition of animals on Grenada and Tobago in comparison to the other islands.
Carriacou & Petite Martinique
Resource: Carriacou Animal Hospital, opened 2012.
About 7500 - 10.000 dogs live on Carriacou and Petite Martinique, a small island 5 miles to the east of Carriacou. In comparison the number of human residents: 6000 people on Carriacou and 900 on Petite Martinique.
There is no shelter. Before the Carriacou Animal Hospital opened in 2012, the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had a bungalow at the beach for spay and neuter operatives. There are few really homeless animals. Most of them have owners who don’t care. Therefore they have to manage their lives on their own. They are everywhere where they hope to find food, at stores, restaurants or at the dump. The condition of the animals has improved considerably since the clinic opened in January 2012. Since then 1500 animals have been spayed and neutered, 5000 have been medically treated and 250 were re-homed.The fee for spay and neuter is payed voluntarily, 85% of the animals’ owners are too poor to pay anything.
Resource: The Ark Animal Welfare Society Barbados
There are 4 animal welfare organizations on Barbados: The Ark Animal Welfare Society Barbados, The Hope Sanctuary, RSPCA and Animal Control. RSPCA and Animal Control euthanize animals that aren’t adopted within a certain time.
There is no exact information about the size of the RSPCA shelter. Dogs are kept in groups in the kennels during the retention period and a part of the shelter is also used as pet lodge for paying boarders. The Hope Sanctuary has space for about 90 dogs and 60 cats. The Ark Animal Welfare Society Barbados has the smallest shelter and is the only organization that doesn’t own but leases the land where the shelter is built on. It has space for 45 - 50 dogs. The shelter has no cattery but 8 cats live there permanently. Most dogs at the shelter are brought by their owners, there are only few real strays among them.
There is no information about the number of dogs on Barbados, according to a cautious estimate there are at least 100.000 animals of which only few are spayed and neutered. It is difficult and time-taking to obtain permits for foreign volunteering vets to come to Barbados for spay and neuter campaigns.
As on other Caribbean islands, many of the free running dogs have owners who consider it as normal that their dogs manage their own lives. Dog food is expensive and if the dogs are fed at all they get leftovers, rice and macaronis. Most dogs suffer from parasites. Heart worm. ehrlichiosis and fevers caused by ticks are the most common diseases. Barbados is free of rabies.
Aruba is only 30 kilometers long and 9 kilometers wide, densely populated by more than 100.000 people, more than half of whom drive a car, , and 30 – 40.000 straying dogs and cats. Since 01/ 01/2015 Aruba has a dog law that shall help to solve problems connected with free roaming dogs, such as traffic accidents where dogs are involved, dog bites, killing of farm animals and spilling garbage. Properties where dogs are kept have to be fenced, otherwise dogs have to be chained or kept in a kennel. Outside of the property dogs have to be on a leash. The law shall also aid to prevent unwanted proliferation and abandoning as result. The law contains strict regulations how to keep dogs: Chained dogs must be kept on a running lead at least 10 meters long with a leash of at least 2 meters length attached to it, kennels mustn’t be smaller than 7 square meters, contain a dog hut and have a height of 2 meters.. Clean water must be available at all times as well as enough food of acceptable quality daily. Medical care has to be provided when needed. The keeping of breeds considered dangerous is restricted. Violations of the law can be punished with fines, jail sentences and confiscation of the dog.
The web site Plataforma Ley die Cacho hosted by the government, veterinarians and animal welfare organizations shall inform about the law and promote responsible dog keeping. They admit that enforcing the law is not easy and presents a great challenge.
The American organization Animal Balance spayed and neutered 312 dogs on Aruba in 2016, 58 of them came from the local dump, at that time inhabited by about 200 semi-wild dogs.
According to research done prior to the operative in 2015, about 8500 dogs and cats are euthanized on Aruba annually. Since 1980 Aruba has a pound implemented by the government, so called drop off kennels. All animals that land there are kept overnight and euthanized if not picked up the next morning.
United Dogs of Aruba , registered in the Netherlands, continues the work of Animal Balance.