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BVI Humane Society in uphill battle for survival

A section of the BVI Humane Society compound that houses rabbits and iguanas among other animals. Photo:VINO
Tessa Gunter with some of the puppies at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
Tessa Gunter with some of the puppies at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
Vijay hard at work at the BVI Humane Society. Photo: VINO
Vijay hard at work at the BVI Humane Society. Photo: VINO
Some of the rabbits up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
Some of the rabbits up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
A young boy returning one of the puppies that ran off for a solo stroll. Photo: VINO
A young boy returning one of the puppies that ran off for a solo stroll. Photo: VINO
One of the many kittens up for adoption at the shelter. Photo: VINO
One of the many kittens up for adoption at the shelter. Photo: VINO
Two of the puppies up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
Two of the puppies up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – In what seems to be a case of the Good Samaritan needing a Good Samaritan, the BVI Humane Society says it continues to operate at a loss and is now burdened with having to relocate.

This was revealed when Virgin Islands News Online met recently with Ms Tessa Gunter, proprietor of the BVI Humane Society, to find out what was going on at the Virgin Islands’ only animal shelter.

One of the first things Ms. Gunter disclosed was that animals were being dumped every day at the shelter. “What can you do with them?” she questioned. “They find them and they bring them.”

“We try to re-home them, which is easier said than done… the puppies and the kittens are easier to re-home,” she added.

Some of the older dogs, on the other hand, prove a much more difficult challenge, “I mean, who wants an old dog?” she asked rhetorically.

It was also revealed that persons come to the shelter on a daily basis to adopt pets as well since there were always puppies and kittens for adoption. The animals are vaccinated, deep-cleaned and given a health card. A nominal adoption fee is also usually requested in addition to a signed agreement to have the animal spayed or neutered in an effort to help control the pet population.

Ms Gunter, the 2011 recipient of the Humanitarian of the year award, explained that the Society runs at a loss everyday despite the donations that come in from time to time. No government funding is received by the organisation. Additional efforts at raising funds include dog shows, gaming nights and yard and book sales, all done to assist in keeping the shelter afloat she added.

One of the bigger and more immediate issues that confronts the Society is the urgent need for relocation. “We were supposed to move since last year and are in the process of buying land which is taking an awful long time,” she disclosed.

The land that the Society currently inhabits is owned by Mr A. O. Shirley. After being there for over twenty years, Ms Gunter explained that they were asked to move on because Mr. Shirley wanted to develop the land.

She further revealed that Mr Shirley has been very reasonable about the delay in acquiring new land and the entire relocation process. “He’s been ok with it, I’m letting him know we are in the process of buying land and as he knows, anything here moves very slowly… it doesn't happen overnight.”

Once the land is purchased, she explained, “we’re going to need all the help to clear it, build it and everything else.”

Persons, especially children, come by to assist on occasion by doing ‘doggie walks’ and helping with chores around the shelter when they are on vacation from school. They also wash and groom the dogs in addition to feeding the iguanas and bunnies whenever they can.

Just as she was explaining this, a child dutifully returned one of the puppies that had wandered off from the fold to explore on his own. “Sorry,” she said to the pup, “you can’t walk down the road by yourself without me.”

Ms Gunter disclosed that she did a lot of dog training, which included educating persons about how to take care of dogs.

“It never ends,” she said, adding that animals are brought in boxes and left at the shelter.

When asked if she ever gets frustrated, Ms Gunter answered, “Yea I’m tearing out my hair every day because the sad part is that you can’t save them all… I wish we could save them (pets) all, but we can’t.”

The animals that are unfortunate enough to miss the adoption lists are put to sleep. “They have to be put to sleep… we can’t have dogs breeding here to make more dogs.”

Ms Gunter explained that the policy for most animal shelters around the world is that the animals have to be spayed. Animals to be spayed are taken each Thursday to the Veterinarian that comes in from St John. She explained that this was necessary since they would otherwise be overrun with more animals.

Even though animals can be dropped off at virtually any time, the shelter is normally opened at about 7:30AM each morning during which time the cleaner is present. Additionally, she revealed, “we take a lot of boarders, people who are away on vacation [leave their pets]… that’s additional income as well, people go away and they pay for their animals to be taken care of.”

“We are going to need a lot of money to help to build [the new shelter],” she said. Currently legal ads are being run in the local newspapers declaring the intention to purchase the lot and requesting notices of objection.

Ms Gunter’s co-worker, Vijay, explained that the puppies have a much better chance of being able to find a home than the adult dogs and he usually has the unenviable task of having to evaluate which animals stay or go (put to sleep) once they are brought into the shelter. “We have such a small piece of land here,” he noted, “it’s only a quarter of an acre and we can’t really afford to spay or neuter everything that comes through the door.”

Explaining the prohibitive cost of maintaining some of the animals, Vijay said that it is roughly $95 to spay a cat while the cost of neutering is around $55. Medium sized dogs, he revealed, are spayed at a cost of $135 while a larger breed costs in the region of $165.

Vijay explained that the Society’s effort at finding a new location is not only a lengthy process, but a tedious one as well. “When you are going to place an animal shelter, you have to make sure it’s on the right piece of land, you don’t want it to be on the hillside, can’t be in a residential area and must have access to light and water which is very difficult to find.”

21 Responses to “BVI Humane Society in uphill battle for survival ”

  • good to great (17/10/2012, 07:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    tis touch my hart vino...
    • Ann (17/10/2012, 23:10) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      thanks for bring this important issue to light VINO you are truly serving a public good...
  • Princess (17/10/2012, 08:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The government needs to step in and help this organization.
    • Nykie (17/10/2012, 09:06) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      The government should really help expecially like how it's the only shelter around.
  • where (17/10/2012, 08:41) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Where is the land going to be?
  • nonsense (17/10/2012, 09:00) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    euthanize all of them
    • NO (17/10/2012, 09:45) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      you wicked, hope you not walking around with a bible
    • Animal Lover (17/10/2012, 09:53) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Your attitude is somewhat like the person that is poisoning dogs that are not just homeless but someones pet that is part of the family.
    • egg face (17/10/2012, 22:52) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      to nonsense: boss If you don't have something useful to say then keep quiet....
  • Help (17/10/2012, 09:48) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Come out and support the Humane Society: Saturday November 10th from 7.00pm to 1.00am. The Humane Society of the BVI are holding their very popular Gaming Night at Nanny Cay. Blackjack, roulette, crab races etc. Great prizes, lots of fun and all for a good cause. Dress to impress!
  • True (17/10/2012, 10:26) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

    I used to support the Humane Society but alas just like all donation based charities there is alleged mismanagement. Buying a brand new truck with funds gathered to feed the animals which serves no purpose as a small van would of done the same job. Also the question of her personal horses, who paid for two new horses when one died? Who pays for all the feed and up keep of these animals which cannot be adopted from the shelter. These questions would all have to be answered before a Government donation/help could be offered.

  • Native Boy (17/10/2012, 11:24) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Just like those people can raise funds to keep a gym open they can raise funds to keep Tessa operation open!
  • Gandi (17/10/2012, 14:34) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

    The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Pet Awareness (17/10/2012, 15:57) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    On this island there seems to be about an equal amount of pet lovers as there are haters. I live in an area where dogs are frequently abandoned and the people are constantly coming together to try and find them a new home; even if it is shipping a dog to the States. I'm not sure why anyone would adopt a puppy and then when it proves to require loving attention they decide the dog must go. Aren't people aware that dogs are a lot of work? For most the dog becomes part of a family and the training, the walks, the feeding all become second nature because the reward of a loving, reliable dog is worth it all. But then there are those who only own a dog for the purpose of living outside the house and to bark if anyone come near. That's just cruel; but I won't go there. People need to be made aware of the benefits of having their cats and dogs spayed and neutered. Is $100 really that much that people would prefer a cat to continuously breed and bring dozens of kittens into being. So many are strays wandering around fending for themselves and living short lives because they are not being tended to in a loving home. Then someone else chooses to come along and poison the animals; often killing beloved pets in the process. Everyone should be required to spay or neuter their animal AND before acquiring a pet they need to familiarize themselves with what will need to be done to care for the animal. If you're not willing to have a dependent four legged baby then don't bring home a dog or cat! Get a fish and a bowl and save the animal the heartbreak of being abused or abandoned.
  • one eye roster (17/10/2012, 16:17) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    NDP need to help this cause form giving away all tax payers $$$$ to their friends, family and cronies….
    • one eye (17/10/2012, 16:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      The talk on the street is that the both NDP and VIP aint want to help these people because of other reasons but shut mouth do not catch fly!!!
      • Help Help Help (17/10/2012, 19:46) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        Stop with the damn ignorance please and let's all help this good programme
  • redman (17/10/2012, 21:09) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Tola, helping their own is like a dentist pulling teeth(painful) fall on your knee's begging and crying out for help but as usual in then end its up to you to survive on your own...........what a shame........
  • ta ta (17/10/2012, 22:58) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    ayo better be careful dat the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals aint come down here for ayo mehson
  • ... (17/10/2012, 23:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Honestly everybody needs to pitch in and help the animal shelter
  • teacher john (18/10/2012, 07:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Hast off vino for bring this matter to the attention of the public. I honestly though all along this was a government run facility.

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