Secretary for the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, during a recent visit to the Tobago branch of the TTSPCA.
CHARLES KONG SOO

COVID-19 has hit the Tobago arm of the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA) really hard.

The shelter is forced to euthanise up to three animals per day, dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Pre COVID-19, the Scarborough based shelter would only put to sleep about three animals per week.

The animal population in Tobago is one of those groups hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cages at the shelter are overflowing with strays and abandoned cats and dogs and need an upgrade.

Secretary for the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development (DHWFD) Tracy Davidson-Celestine, has stepped in to provide a $10,000 monthly subvention for the animal shelter.

In a release from the DHWFD on October 16, the division said that this was part of its efforts to help eliminate the stray dog population in Tobago through spaying, adoption, rehabilitation and rehousing through the TTSPCA.

Davidson-Celestine, a dog lover 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.

“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.

“Adoptions have fallen drastically, returns are increasing and more animals—especially dogs—are being euthanised (put to sleep) simply because of inadequate space to house and care for them.

“In recent weeks, the rate at which animals have had to be put down by the TTSPCA has risen sharply. This contrasts with the usual average, and TTSPCA Tobago’s senior veterinarian Dr Racquel Small believes the financial crunch caused by the pandemic is affecting adoption rates, she said because people weren’t coming, they had to put down more animals.”

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 with their stress levels during a 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 explained. “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, things were much more manageable at the TTSPCA, even with limited funding. In 2019, the organisation received 762 animals: 294 were adopted, 57 died due to health issues, 88 were successfully treated and 260 had to be put to sleep.

TTSPCA continues to ask for public support for adoptions; volunteers; and donations of funds, food and supplies. It also runs a yearly SPOTT (Spaying Prevents Overpopulation in T&T) 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. 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. So, much more help is needed.

The Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development has committed to assisting in the form of a $10,000-per-month subvention. This will go towards urgent repairs and rebuilding of kennels so that TTSPCA can return to full capacity, and purchasing much-needed equipment.

TTSPCA also provides other services, like catching of strays and treatment of sick animals brought into the clinic.

If you’d like to adopt an animal or volunteer your time, contact 309-0219 or 639-2567, or visit www.ttspca.org.