FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- With the approach of hurricane season and the intake at the shelter as high as ever, we at the Humane Society of Grand Bahama really wanted to get some more dogs out before the weather got too hot to fly them. Only one major problem, no funding! So the HSGB sent out a plea for help, as did HSGB board member The Kohn Foundation founder, Ellen Kohn. We were overwhelmed by the response and within a few short days had the funding necessary.
Work then began to ascertain which U.S. rescues and shelters could help, and so many stepped up, we realized we just might be able to save more than ever before. To our joy, last Friday, 69 puppies (including over a dozen teenagers), 22 adult dogs and one small kitten left Grand Bahama on the first leg of their hope-filled new lives.
They went to reputable no-kill rescues and individuals in Florida, New York, Boston, Indiana, New Mexico, and last but not least, Colorado. Colorado friends and rescues took in 48 dogs and puppies! Some of our longer term dogs got rescued this time, which makes us even happier.
Thanks are due to so many people, too numerous to name here, who donated money and/or time to help with this incredible rescue. More pictures from the puppy lift can be seen HERE.
[Lucky puppies waiting to be crated] We feel the need once again to explain that the HSGB Board and staff do not view this programme as a solution to our pet over-population problem. As most of Grand Bahama knows, we have intensive spay/neuter programmes, which also include education initiatives; the goal being a more responsible public at large in the near future.
We look forward to the day when our shelter does not have this overwhelming "surplus" of pets; when every animal we take in has a chance to find their forever home right here at home. Operation Puppylift simply allows us, in the meantime, to save a few more lives than we are able to locally, thanks to out of control local breeding, importing pet store dogs, and a sad lack of even considering adoption by the majority of our local residents.
The first spay/neuter programme is our voucher programme, kindly funded by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, whereby the needy public can redeem a voucher (issued by the HSGB) with one of our local vets to have their pet sterilized. Our local vets provide this service at a deep discount off their normal charges. The budget for this programme provides for about 500 surgeries per year.
[Future HSGB staffer says goodbye to favorite puppy] The second is our field and shelter clinic project, begun in January 2007, and whereby over 2500 additional animals all over Grand Bahama have been sterilized. This project allows us to reach the outer areas of the island, and also concentrated problem areas in and around Freeport in a short period of time. Critical when one considers a female dog can have two litters in a year, and a female cat, even more. Sad to say, this project is now in jeopardy, but we are not giving up.
There has been some local criticism of Operation Puppy Lift, and our practices in general. We hope through the Q&A below, to answer some of those criticisms.
Q. Aren't you just exporting the problem somewhere else?
A. See above explanation.
Q. Why send animals to the U.S. when so many there are in jeopardy in shelters?
[Miss Junior Grand Bahama pitches in to help] A. The groups we work with are in areas where spay/neuter, education and legislation have proven very effective. Many shelters and rescues in those areas often find themselves without puppies as a result, which can cause the public to turn to backyard breeders, Craigslist and pet stores; all of which are related to puppy mills, which then keeps the puppy mills and irresponsible breeders in business. These groups have the space, the ability, and enough potential good adopters, to take in pets from other areas and are happy to help those pets whose chances are otherwise slim to none. Many of the groups we work with, regularly take in animals from more economically depressed states (and other countries such as Mexico), and would probably take in even more. The sad fact is that, just as we reached out to find safe havens for our dogs and pups, more shelters within the U.S. could do the same with the same result, but for whatever reason - apathy? lack of caring? unwillingness to exert themselves? too engrained in the status quo of killing? - they choose not to explore other avenues and continue the unnecessary and mass killing of adoptable and treatable dogs and cats.
Q. You have too many animals at your shelter; why aren't you just killing more of them?
[Getting ready to load the plane at the airport] A. First, as long as we can comfortably house, feed and medicate all the animals in our care, how is that too many? Secondly, please remember we are a "humane" society. Our mission is to save lives, not end them. It is not humane nor is it mercy killing (the definition of euthanasia) to kill an animal who is not suffering. Thirdly, we already have a 75% euthanasia rate (down from 95% five years ago). How many more would you have us kill?! Fourthly, we would welcome those who so flippantly advise us to kill more animals to put their money where their mouth is; come in to the shelter on the days we must choose who lives or dies. Walk through all the kennels with us, help us choose, and then spend an hour with each of those chosen to die. Give them their last walk, their last kind words, their last treat, and play their last game with them. Then help lift them onto the table and hold them while their tail continues to thump ever more feebly, and their trusting eyes are fixed on you even as the life passes from their body. We ask only that unless and until you are willing to do this, please refrain from judging our mission to help them live.
[Fisher wondering what the heck is going on] Perhaps if we received support from more of the public who we assist daily, whether indirectly or directly, (remember the services we provide benefit every single resident of Grand Bahama), we could achieve a solution even faster. Instead, we have a relatively small group of loyal and appreciated core supporters ... and a much larger group of non-supporters, and even some detractors. When did they last dig into their pocket for even a dollar, or attend one of our fundraisers, to support the work we do? If someone is not willing to be part of the solution, how can they possibly presume to even know what it is?
We welcome visitors to the shelter and we are always happy to explain and educate. We find that most people who visit for the first time are amazed and humbled by the experience. We do not have a shelter full of bush dogs and feral cats; we have a shelter full of PETS.
Any more questions?