In a press release the organisation said it would “cease providing veterinary services for the Rarotonga community and vacate the EHF Animal Clinic site on December 31 2017”.
It said the reason for the closure was “simple”: the lack of an alternative site to its current premises in Nikao, which it has been told to vacate.
In 2015 the landowners, Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), gave Esther Honey a 30-day eviction notice, however the organisation was given a stay of execution after widespread public outcry.
At the time CIIC said it had “no complaint against the Esther Honey Foundation per se” but explained that the site was “not well suited” to its purpose and added that the land use did “not fit with the Corporation’s residential future plans”.
The search for a new location then began and an alternative site, also owned by CIIC, was identified in Arorangi, said EHF.
“At all times we trusted that a site, being narrowed down to the Arorangi location, would become the new home for the Esther Honey Foundation Animal Clinic,” said the organisation.
But in May this year the EHF said it was “stunned” to receive an email saying the alternative site was no longer available.
The message from CIIC chief Tamarii Tutangata, which has been seen by CINews, said a former EHF employee had established a “locally owned, managed and operated animal clinic”.
Tutangata also said he had met with one of the founders of the proposed clinic and “other local residents who are in full support of the establishment of a local clinic.” He continued that he also received support “from the President of the local chapter of the SPCA and others including an ex-Esther Honey volunteer”.
“We have more recently been informed that the local clinic has in fact been formally registered as the Te Are Manu Incorporation and its members are ready to begin establishing a clinic at the site that we had offered to Esther Honey.”
Te Are Manu, which also offers free animal welfare services, opened its doors in September, and will welcome a new vet from Australia this week.
In a statement confirming its closure the organisation said it had spent more than $12m since the Cook Islands since 1995, when US animal advocate Cathy Sue Ragan-Anunsen opened the first animal clinic in the country after a visit to Rarotonga.
“Our volunteers have treated more than 45,000 animals including sterilizing more than 17,000 dogs and cats at no charge to the community.
“Our humane and basic animal health care presentations reached every Rarotonga primary school as well as schools visited during our 119 EHF Vet Treks to outer islands.
“EHF’s continued presence and the thousands of EHF volunteers who have worked and lived in the Cook Islands are not the only reason there has been a significant positive shift in the way animals are viewed and treated in the Cook Islands since the 90s, but Esther Honey has been an important contributor.
“When we first arrived the majority of dogs suffered the same maladies as those on other Pacific islands including debilitating parasitic infestations, poor nutrition, skin diseases, untreated injuries, useless limbs and excruciating deaths. Some might recall that that there was no pet food in the stores.
“We hope that Esther Honey’s dedicated, passionate and skilled volunteers have played a meaningful role in the country’s transformation that is now generated from within and will be sustained overtime.
“We are forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of so many who have warmly welcomed EHF into their community.”
- Jonathan Harwood