People who want to adopt dogs from the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) now have a chance to get to know the animals before deciding whether or not to take them home.
This has been made possible through the TTSPCA’s new interactive area at the shelter’s compound on Mucurapo Road, St James, which was opened to the public at the beginning of July.
TTSPCA administrator, Annette Sirju, said, “We have lovely kennels that are spacious for the animals but they are behind gates and people would have made decisions just on seeing the dogs. I have found, when people had to chose, they did not get a good overall view of the animals.”
Sirju said, previously, when people looking to adopt went into the shelter, they would chose a dog from the kennels to take home. Now, she said, the chosen dog would be brought to the interactive area where the possible adopter could sit with, pet, play with and generally socialise with the dog to see if they formed a bond.
“When you chose an animal, they really have to chose you,” she said.
Cats, of which there were 34 up for adoption, are excluded because it is an open-air area and cats tend to slip away.
Sirju explained that dogs acted one way in their kennel – sometimes shy, sometimes friendly, sometimes curious about the newcomers – but when they were out, their attitudes sometimes changed. She said that allowing them to interact with people was a good way see if the dogs were interested in their potential owners.
“This makes the decision easier for those adopting, helps them to be even more sure,” Sirju said. “Even if they aren’t adopted right away, it better prepares the dogs for adoption.”
She said even though there was an exercise area in which the dogs played together and with volunteers, the interactive area is a good way for them to socialise with humans they did not know. She added that it allowed dogs that were more shy to get accustomed to new people and scents.
Although the interactive area includes a bath area, visitors are not allowed to bathe the dogs. Sirju said volunteers and TTSPCA staff usually gave the animals baths before they went home with their new owners. The new bath area is more suitable as it was more spacious, comfortable, and better to dry off in the open air.
Sirju told Sunday Newsday the space had always been vacant and TTSPCA wanted to put it to good use. She said the workers had the idea for the interactive area for two to three years before they were able to get enough funds to it fix up.
Since the shelter costs about $1.3 million annually to run, she said most donations went toward food for the animals and administration, as well as the constant upkeep of the building, especially with the eroding of the kennels by water and urine.
The impetus to finally build up the interactive area came earlier this year because of a larger than usual donation from the Massy Foundation.
“This helped us to get going in a big way,” She said. “Then we were able to beautify the area with the help of a Latin dance group who held a fundraiser and gave us the proceeds for the benches, and we got a discount from Peaks.
“The plants were donated by Secret Garden Landscaping and others helped a lot.”
She said they received positive feedback from visitors, who were happy to have a place where they could sit in a relaxed environment and take their time to get to know the dogs.
Sirju added that there were 69 adult dogs and 15 puppies available for adoption.
TTSPCA hopes to hold an adoption drive this year. Sirju explained that the adopter usually paid $400 to offset the cost for spaying and neutering, but with the adoption drive the cost would be lowered to $100.
“We have found that over the last few years the adoption drives have not been successful,” Sirju said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the recession or what, but we did not get as many people coming in. So much so that we did not have one last year.”