Always willing to give a hand, I helped the volunteers to walk some of the 40 or so wonderful dogs at the kennels of the Ark Animal Welfare Society. The exercise was not unusual for me but the heat (33 degrees) and sunshine certainly was! Also unique was watching out for squashed cane toads with their poison glands (highly toxic to the dogs if ingested) and the mischievous Green Monkeys swinging from the trees. Volunteer Diane informed me that she had heard tales of monkeys showing great interest in dogs, tormenting them, throwing stones and in one instance, she had been told of a monkey actually urinating over a tethered dog!
As in other tropical climates, I have visited, keeping dogs outdoors tethered to a kennel is commonplace. In Barbados, the main value of owning a dog is often seen as guarding the property by raising the alarm on intruders. Like the dogs at ARK, the majority I saw in yards and gardens were friendly, short-coated crossbreeds all of similar shape and size – typical of the Island.
ARK kennel manager Gerad explained to me that most of their cases are often found as strays, the result of accidental breeding by free-roaming un-neutered dogs. Generally, they are picked up in poor condition but treating for parasites (ticks are problematic) and provision of proper nutrition (as opposed to table scraps) result in a good recovery and the shelter has successfully rehomed 120 dogs this year.
Although I travelled around the beautiful Island, I only saw a couple of cats but was assured that there is over-population with thousands of unwanted feral cats. The ARK trap, neuter and release as many as possible and endeavour to rehome kittens and other homeable cats – this year achieving a commendable 12 new homes for otherwise unwanted cats.
Encouraging responsible pet ownership is an on-going process and although owners are required by law to register their dogs (with collar and tag) this is only adhered to by a minority. ARK carries out numerous outreach projects to highlight the problems facing animals within “a culture where the welfare of animals tends to be somewhat insignificant”. ‘Blue’ (a young cross-breed dog) was an example of neglect when he arrived at the shelter encased in matted hair and dreadlocks.
ARK nurtures volunteering from supporters, adopters and students (and tourists like me!) allowing greater attention to the dogs whilst raising awareness. Fundraising is constant with some brilliant initiatives including retail and tourist outlets being encouraged to display posters in their establishment giving their customers the option of adding an additional $1 (bds) to their bill in support of the Arks valuable work.
If visiting Barbados, please look out for these posters, make your donation and rest assured your money will be well spent on raising awareness of the needs of the otherwise unwanted animals on the island