The dog that had “too many puncture wounds to count”, was brought in March 10, Jo Taylor-Kupu, Esther Honey Clinic Manager, said the dog was “an absolute mess”. The puncture wounds looked to be over three weeks old and were infected so badly that nurses had to take turns treating the wound.
“The smell was so overpowering you couldn’t be in the room for extensive amounts of time,” Taylor-Kupu said.
The dog was said to have suffered the injury during a dog fight, but there are questions over how a dog fight could inflict such injuries, and how they in turn could be ignored for over three weeks, particularly when they made such a foul stench.
Taylor-Kopu posted a photo of the dog on Facebook in the hope the shocking case would shed more light on the shameful state of animal welfare on the island.
The post caused a commotion with one local going so far as to threaten the Cook Islands’ tourist economy, saying she would share the graphic image to friends all around the world, who would then share it to additional friends in neighbouring countries.
She said the image would go viral and the first point of damage would be the Cook Islands tourism industry, the foremost contributor to the country’s economy.
She added she was “positive” this action would be sure to get the government’s attention.
The threat angered some business owners, one stating that spreading news about the dog would be “a suicide wish” for the country.
Another FB user disagreed, saying: “the government is so quick to paint the Cook Islands as a faultless slice of paradise. Maybe it is time someone diminished the façade”.
This post was later removed.
Animal abuse cases are graphic and the topic sometimes seems to be off-limits, but Taylor-Kupu agrees that cases of cruelty need to be shared, no matter how graphic.
“We need to make people aware of the animal cruelty cases we get here.”
Taylor-Kupu says 90 per cent of the dogs on Rarotonga are in reasonable condition. “But then we have the 10 per cent who aren’t, and they are the ones we need to focus on.
“There needs to be laws in place to protect them. If that is too hard then there needs to be stricter punishment that makes people realise there are consequences.”
Animal welfare laws in the Cook Islands appear ineffective at present and the maximum fine for cruelty to animals is just $20.
It’s different in larger countries such as New Zealand where in 2015 a businessman was convicted and fined $10,000 for animal cruelty after SPCA officers were forced to euthanise 77 of his ill-treated sheep.
The Esther Honey Foundation has previously said it can’t continue to treat animals unless appropriate legislation is put in place to curb cruelty, and that it is no use just treating animals and then putting them back in the hands of the people who mistreated them in the first palce
“Chances are that if the owners have neglected that animal once, they will do it again,” Taylor-Kupu said.
“I'm not after jail time and huge fines but education. What I would like to see in cases like this one is that the owners do some community service in the clinic and do an educational course on how to look after animals.
“When we are happy that they understand and will change their ways they can have their animals back but under supervision for a set time.
“It's no use charging people thousands of dollars, so that people cannot afford food, etc. And what's the use of jail time, as we know this doesn't work.
“Although this sounds like the easy approach I feel it's the best way,” Taylor-Kupu said.
In 2015 the Cook Islands Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was drafting amendments to animal welfare legislation which is seen as ineffective in deterring cruelty to animals.
CISPCA president Sharon Reichart was asked about the status of the amendments but said she was unsure and unable to make any further comments.
Taylor-Kupu said: “The problem is also the speed at which legislation takes to be implemented. It’s too slow for us. It’s too slow for the rate these animals come in sick and injured, at the end of the day it is we who deal with the fallout. That, and the animal’s life suffers.”
Taylor-Kupu has said she would be happy to take matters into her own hands,
“ I am going to set up a committee here and I’m going to try and get some amendments and legislation written up so that we can lay them on the table and say, ‘look here’s an idea’.”
The clinic has said they see a major animal welfare case every couple of weeks. Volunteers at the clinic have seen a dog with his throat cut, dogs and cats with bullet wounds, mutilated animals hurt in car accidents, and a dog who had boiling water poured over its body. The only penalty was a reprimand and a $20 fine.
The people that own the puncture wounded dog were said to be reunited with him on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are now happy to return this dog on the understanding if they need help in the future they ask. The owners will now forevermore look after him, and this is the outcome we want, ”said Taylor-Kupu.