Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine has announced a $10,000 monthly subvention to assist the Tobago arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA).
The covid19 pandemic has hit the Scarborough-based shelter hard, forcing it to euthanise up to three animals per day: dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Pre covid19, the shelter would only put to sleep about three animals per week.
The animal population in Tobago has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. The cages at the shelter, already in need of upgrades, are overflowing with strays and abandoned cats and dogs.
The subvention is part of the division's efforts to help reduce the stray dog population in Tobago through spaying, adoption, rehabilitation and rehousing through the TTSPCA.
Davidson-Celestine said, “TTSPCA provides excellent service and does a great honour to Tobago with how well they treat the animals and run their free spay and neuter programme."
Davidson-Celestine, a dog lover, said the subvention will also go towards urgent repairs and rebuilding of kennels so that TTSPCA can return to full capacity, and purchase much-needed equipment.
TTSPCA Tobago’s senior veterinarian Dr Racquel Small believes the financial crunch caused by the pandemic is affecting adoption rates. Adoptions have fallen drastically, returns are increasing and more animals – particularly dogs – are being euthanised.
“Because people aren’t coming, we have to put down more animals,” Dr Small said on Friday.
“The more animals we have to put down, is a hard day for us. I think we’re doing about three a day in the last few weeks, when we (typically) do like three a week. And usually (euthanasia is) because of health, but because of the numbers (at the clinic), that has changed things a bit.”
The TTSPCA is also seeking volunteers that can use their skills to assist the organisation, or make time to socialise with the animals and take them for a walk.
Small said animals can also help people lower their stress levels during the pandemic. She’s calling on those with the means to do so, to adopt or foster an animal, or even take one home for the weekend.
“They do lower depression rates and they do help with our health in general,” she said. “So once you have the time, I strongly recommend that you get a pet that will help your health and also help us out.”
Before the pandemic, the TTSPCA said things were much more manageable, even with limited funding. In 2019, the organisation received 762 animals: 294 were adopted, 57 died because of health issues, 88 were successfully treated and 260 had to be put to sleep.
TTSPCA urged the public to support through adoptions; volunteers; and donations of funds, food and supplies. It also runs a yearly SPOTT (Spaying Prevents Overpopulation in TT) Programme, where the public can have their pets spayed or neutered for one-fifth the cost to assist in preventing overpopulation. SPOTT has been running now for more than a decade.
And, when dropping off or adopting pets, clients are asked to provide a donation of up to $300. TTSPCA said this covers only a fraction of the cost of care, spaying, examination, medication, vaccination, training and even the baths the animals receive before being adopted.
TTSPCA also provides other services, like catching of strays and treatment of sick animals brought into the clinic.
“We have to do an adoption drive, which means we’ll have to advertise, we’ll have to look at sending animals to Trinidad. All of that is going to cost, and apparently, a lot of people are dumping animals in a lot of places on the island, not just (at TTSPCA)," Small said.
Anyone wishing to adopt an animal or volunteer can contact 309-0219 or 639-2567, or visit www.ttspca.org.