When a cargo plane loaded with cats and dogs numbering in the hundreds arrives in Halifax from the Bahamas later this week, it will be the end of a long few weeks of work for the staff at South Paw Conservation Nova Scotia, and the start of more work to get those animals into foster homes.
South Paw is working with the Bahamas Humane Society to help home these cats and dogs.
“They’re overcapacity at their shelter, dependent on donations to survive,” says Terri-Lyn Rhyno, who works at South Paw. “I’m sure their food and vet bills are very high. I can’t imagine having to look after all those animals. We’re hoping to take some of that pressure off of them.”
Places like the Bahamas Humane Society need all the help they can get. Without any tourists, there are fewer people to adopt the many stray cats and dogs on the island.
And after Hurricane Dorian, most of the resources available are going to other more pressing issues. Partnerships like this one with South Paw are helping in two ways — first, to take some of the load off of the Bahamas; second, to help meet some of the demand for pets without directing people toward expensive breeders.
“It started when I was on vacation in Antigua,” says Rhyno, who saw dogs up for adoption at the airport — a common way shelters in the Caribbean islands try to get their animals adopted.
“I reached out to see if we could help and they called me in January,” Rhyno says. “This is our way of trying to help them, and they have been amazing to work with.
Helping in this way required a massive effort on South Paw’s part, but Rhyno says they’ve been blessed to work in a community that has showered them with support.
“We knew there was a need for adoptable animals, but not to this degree,” Rhyno says. “We received hundreds of emails from people wanting to help, wanting to make donations, and wanting to foster.”
By now, most of the animals have fosters arranged, Rhyno says. She says the best way for people to help now would be donations of food, or money for food. They need approximately 1,400 cans of cat food, and that’s just for the first week.
“We need to keep them fed,” she notes. “And then litter is a huge expense.”
Rhyno suggests donating to the Bahamas Humane Society as well. “Donations to them are super important,” she says. “We can survive here, we can get support — but they need a lot of support.”
Taking in animals from abroad is only one slice of the good work they do for the community, however. When they aren’t coordinating international drop-offs, they are doing this work closer to home, particularly with the many feral cats that live in Nova Scotia.
“Our main focus is with feral cats,” Rhyno says, explaining that they work with two rescues in the Yarmouth area that do most of the trapping.
“I think people don’t always see what’s out there. Most of these places are not in the city, they’re out in the country, in someone’s barn back on a long road. ... Our focus has been trying to tame as many as possible. As long as you can let them come to you, they are the sweetest cats.”
And even if you can’t donate or foster now, Rhyno says you can help by remembering the immortal words of the great Bob Barker: have your pets spayed or neutered.
If you’re interested in contributing to the work South Paw Conservation does, or in fostering an animal in the future, reach out to them at email@example.com