First Ever Spay Progam In Inagua

PRESS RELEASE – 17 April 2008

“First ever Spay & Neuter Clinic in Inagua”

In 2007 a plea for help was received by The Bahamas Humane Society from the then Administrator of Inagua, Mr Charles King, as the population growth of dogs on the island was getting out of hand so BHS executive director Kevin Degenhard flew there to assess the situation. There were roaming dogs on virtually every street and there were dozens of dogs in the bush around the garbage dump just outside town. As no vet visits Inagua none of these animals had been sterilized.

The saddest, and most worrying, factor is that it has become common practice for many people with puppies to abandon them with the trash at garbage dump, adding to a growing population of feral dogs which survive through scavenging and by killing wildlife, including dog pack attacks on donkeys. Children were walking to school with rocks and sticks in their hands to fend off street dogs.

The BHS liaised with all Bahamian veterinarians and organized the first ever spay and neuter clinic in Matthew Town, Inagua last week. The logistics of the operation getting equipment and volunteer veterinarians to Inagua were challenging but with the support of Dr Grant from the Palmdale Veterinary Clinic and volunteer veterinarians from the Rural Area Veterinary Services a ‘M.A.S.H.’ style work force arrived on site.

“This was also a real community project” said Kevin Degenhard, “which would not have been possible without the tremendous hard work and energy of local residents who helped Senior Counsellor Ronald Roker and Counsellor Richard Ingraham carry out urgent repairs to make the old disused Inagua Hospital habitable to run our clinic. They did an amazing job reconnecting water and electricity, fixing doors and windows and providing lights”. The BHS team received the full support of the community who welcomed the project with open arms as residents lined up with their cats and dogs to benefit from this completely free spay & neuter service. Island Administrator Dr Cunningham was delighted with this generous contribution to the community and he gave it his full support.

Other key players who fundamentally helped this happen included Mr Glen Bannister and Ms Debbie Farquharson who organized accommodation for the team of fourteen animal experts, school principal Mr Jason Woodside who arranged for Dr Val Grant, Dr Susan Monger and Kevin Degenhard to run a PowerPoint presentation for every student in the Inagua All Age School on responsible animal ownership. This had also been presented to the Parents & Teachers Association the previous evening. The reason for this project was evident in the form of the nine dogs waiting in the street outside the school gates.

Thanks from the BHS go to the US Coast Guards who stored all the equipment awaiting the team’s arrival, to the police and local stores for spreading the word and the fliers, to Mr Orpheus Simms, the Environmental Health Officer for helping with logistics, to Director of Agriculture, Mr Simeon Pinder for administrating the paperwork and to the Inagua Airport team who helped us with a smooth passage on and off the island. This mission would not have happened without the support of the veterinary volunteers led by Dr Susan Monger, who is an acknowledged expert in this field, nor without the dedication of The Bahamas National Trust senior warden Mr Henry Nixon whose local knowledge and networking skills brought the whole project together.

“By the time we left the island we had spayed and neutered over 130 dogs, euthanized 40 and treated numerous other animals including one dog with a collar imbedded in putrefying flesh around its neck for a year but nobody had been able to catch it until we arrived. It was gratifying to see so many dogs sporting their ‘I’ve been spayed’ fluorescent green collars and to see most of the island children wearing the ‘B humane’ turquoise wrist-bands when we left after a week of 12 hour working days.”

The BHS will be working with Dr Grant on a plan to get more Bahamian veterinarians around the Family Islands as a lack of veterinary services in the less wealthy communities contributes to the roaming dog problem and animal suffering. While we need to get back to Inagua to continue the job we have started we desperately need the Animal Protection & Control Act, drafted in 2005, on the statute books as one of the provisions in that Act is for animal control officers to be appointed in the Family Islands. Everyone in the veterinary team said their lingering memories will include the amazing enthusiasm of Inaguans for this project as well as their generosity and friendly hospitality.

To report cruelty to animals or to seek advice on animal care, contact the BHS:
Email Fax 356 2659 Phone 323 5138