When issues are raised about the problematic stray dog population on the island, many are quick to point fingers to the Saga Humane Society of San Pedro for not doing a proper job at controlling the situation. But did you know that the organization conducted 639 Spay/Neuter procedures, vaccinated 503 animals, treated 335 animals free of charge and facilitated the adoption of 108 pets to new homes?
These staggering numbers can give you a pretty good idea on how much pets are on the island and how out of hand the stray pet/animal population is. The Humane Society clearly has its hands full. And this is an organization that runs from voluntary donations, grants, and from services by its veterinary employee and sales from drugs and medications for domestic animals. They are doing a great job with the resources and volunteers that they have.
Saga Humane Society was founded in 1999, primarily to monitor and control the cat and dog populations on Ambergris Caye through assisted cost spay/neuter and adoption, humane education program. Saga improves the general health and well being of the domestic and wild animals, as well as the humans of the island.
This week, The Saga Humane Society released its services and accomplishment report for the past year 2013 which has been highlighted below.
2013 Community Accomplishments -
A. Saga HS Clinic and Shelter - Saga HS operates a not for profit Veterinary Clinic in San Pedro that is open to the public. As well as a animal shelter, Ft. Dog for homeless dogs and cats available for adoption. There was a 36% decrease in adoptions from the shelter, as residents buying and importing “breed” animals to the island.
*12% decrease in shelter animals - With a 30% increase in animal care costs, and fewer owner surrenders the Saga HS shelter saw a decrease in animals in the shelter.
* 150% increase in animals treated free of charge - With the economy still struggling, free services increased in 2013 to low income residents.
* 216% increase in vaccinations - To control the spread of diseases distemper, rabies and parvo vaccines were given to low income residents at no charge.
* CDV outbreak and Mobile Clinics - After 22 cases of distemper had been seen at the Saga HS clinic, it was clear there was an outbreak in San Mateo. To prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease Saga HS held a Mobile Clinic Tuesday August 6 & 13 to the San Mateo area. Saga HS vaccinated 151 the area dogs and distributed antibiotics to affected dogs. 5 dogs were transported back to Saga HS clinic with advance symptoms of distemper and humanly euthanized. Vaccines were at no charge to low income residents or $10 for those who could afford to pay. Estimated cost to Saga HS was $2,000 which was subsidized through donations. Success was measured through a decrease in cases of CDV in San Mateo and the lack of the disease spreading to other neighborhoods.
* Wildlife - Saga HS Veterinarian Dr. Baptist assisted operating on two different injured and sick marine turtles for the Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Program. Lucky the Green and Flipper the Hawksbill both made a recovery and released back to the sea.
B. Operation SNIP - Saga HS aims to help reduce the problems associated with community and street animals on Ambergris Caye by introducing a pet population management program, Operation SNIP (Spay Neuter Initiative Project). To reduce the breeding populations and reduce the number of street animals, 75-90% of all dogs and cats on the island will need to be sterilized in a 3-5 year time frame to be effective. The primary objective of comprehensive management program should be to keep the population of dogs and cats in a particular area down to a level where there is no need to destroy healthy and friendly animals, but without accumulating them in a shelter.
After analyzing the numbers, owner surrenders were averaging 422 animals per year in between 2009-2012. 43% of those surrenders were euthanized due to lack of homes, decreases in adoption rates or for adverse health reasons. SNIP efforts were concentrated on owned animals that were left to breed freely in backyards, only to be surrendered or turned loose to the streets as strays. SNIP was offered to owners for no cost in 2013 to increase owner participation.
* 42% increase - 639 animals were sterilized through SNIP in 2013. The estimated cost to Saga HS was $32,000 which was subsidized through volunteers, grants, donations and fundraising efforts. Success was measured by a decrease of 26% in owner surrenders and a 27% decrease in surrender euthanasia.
* Volunteer Vet - Dr. Don Tummons of Duck Hollow Animal Hospital in Uniontown, PA helped kick off Operation SNIP in March 2013 with 50 free spay/neuters. He returned for a week in July to help complete 75 spay/neuters for the month. Dr. Tummons and his assistant Mary Maykuth are superstars to Saga HS, as their volunteer their time and expertise and vacation time to come help the animals of Ambergris Caye.
* World Spay Day - 25 animals were sterilized in co-ordination with World Spay Day promoted by The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.
* SNIP-a-thon - During the month of October Saga HS hosted two different visiting Veterinary groups Helping Paws Across Borders and Hopkins Belize Humane Society that provided 208 free spay/neuter clinics for the low income residents of Ambergris Caye in DFC and San Mateo. In addition to the free spay/neuters the teams did wellness check up’s, additional CDV vaccinations and parasite treatments. Success was measured by the high turnout of owners bringing their animals to the Mobile MASH Clinics, instead of requiring transportation to Saga HS Clinic.
C. Education- Saga HS provides a range of educational materials and press releases with information on the responsibilities of animal ownership, how to care for companion animals and the advantages of pet sterilization. Community education is also accomplished through websites, social media, school visits and mobile clinics.
* William & Charlotte Parks Foundation Grant - was awarded for our public educational program. A portion will be used to make public service announcements on responsible pet ownership, SNIP for TV, radio and print media. The other portion will be used to fund an educational program in local school teaching children kindness and responsibility toward animals.
D. San Pedro Dog Control Orders - Saga HS, San Pedro Town Council and San Pedro Police Department worked together after complaints of dogs at large in public, defecating in the street and dog attacks to resolve the issues growing concerns due to uncontrolled dogs. The majority of offenders are owned animals that their owners allow on to the streets without a leash or supervision. All three agencies came to an agreement in enforcing existing Belize Law Dog Act, through the San Pedro Dog Control Orders. These orders address which agency is responsible for each area a comprehensive dog management plans.
* San Pedro Town Council - has the authority to license dogs, write tickets and assess fines to irresponsible dog owners for allowing their dogs to be at large in public without a leash, nuisance complaints, failure to pick up and barking complaints. This is all within their legal authority. The enforcement will be rolled out in phases. Owners need to be made aware of their responsibility and potential fines under the law.
* San Pedro Police Department - has the authority to take dog attack complaints, write tickets, assess fines, require owners to post warning signs or muzzle dog in public, and investigate vicious or savage dog reports for summery conviction, or to refer case to Magistrate for prosecution.
*Saga Humane Society - has the authority to round up dogs at large that appear to be ownerless and without a collar for transport to the Saga HS shelter. A fine will be collected if dog is claimed by owner. Unclaimed healthy animals will be vaccinated sterilized and adopted. Saga HS investigates complaints of animal abuse and abandonment.
In 2013 Saga Humane Society Accomplished:
Dogs Rounded Up: 170 (-5%)
Dogs Returned to Owner: 32 (-4%)
Euthanasia round up: 101 dogs (+2%)
Surrender (owner left at Saga): 266 (-26%)
Euthanasia of surrenders: 178 (-27%)
Adopted into New Homes: 108 (-36%)
Spayed/Neutered: 639 (+42%)
Parasite treatments: 321 (+184%)
Vaccinated: 503 (+216%)
Treated Free of Charge: 335 (+150%)
Total Euthanasia: 279 (-19%)
Average Animals in Shelter: 42 (-12%)
The mission at Saga Humane Society, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, is to prevent cruelty and replace it with kindness to all animals. It seeks to achieve its goals by providing medical care and shelter to animals in need and subsidizing veterinary care to low income families. This is accomplished through the operation of the island’s only non-profit veterinary clinic, conducting ongoing spay/neuter and vaccination campaigns, animal adoption and public education programs. Saga’s vision is to build a permanent animal clinic/education center in Ambergris Caye, Belize and continue working toward a long-term solution to end animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation.