The programme is primarily funded by Dogs Trust UK and supported by the Cook Islands SPCA, who have also raised $20,000 toward the project and who are running the programme in conjunction with Care Vets NZ and Te Are Manu.
The Dogs Trust UK grant came after two years of perseverance from SPCA members, including Robin Kickenburge and Stephanie Saunders, who did the initial groundwork.
SPCA country manager Tony Jamieson says there are a number of benefits to the programme.
“It means less dogs roaming in packs, fighting, and less on the roads. It also looks better for the country as a whole. If people have less dogs, generally they are going to be better-looked after.”
Jamieson quotes Mahatma Ghandi, who said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Care Vets founder Dr Keith Houston adds that the obvious other benefit of the programme is that it is completely free.
“Being a pilot programme, it’s important that we make this work, so that funding can come down to others in the Pacific,” said Houston.
The free desexing service is strictly by appointment only and booking can be made by phoning Tony Jamieson on 25097. Ten dogs can be treated a day and the programme will run for four months.
Jamieson says that if people miss two appointments, it may be difficult to rebook because they are expecting that demand will be high.
He also notes that:
-Dogs should be over four months of age.
-Pregnant dogs can undergo the treatment.
-Nursing dogs should wait for about eight weeks after the birth of their pups.
-Dogs should not be fed at all on the morning of their treatment.
-Dogs should be dropped off from 8.30am and picked up the same afternoon.
-Female dogs will need special care in the week following their operation and need to be kept tied up in the shade with water, giving them the chance to heal safely.
“Recovery is an important part of the whole process,” says Houston.
Care Vets is run throughout the North Island of New Zealand and the foundation raises money or applies for grants, with one hundred percent of money raised spent directly on the animals, says Houston.
He says that according to a recent SPCA survey there are 3982 dogs on Rarotonga. Of those, about 2500 have been desexed, leaving approximately 1500, “so if we can do 800 it will have a huge effect on the dog population”.
Preparations are underway to begin the programme and a room at Te Are Manu will be available, as well as a fully equipped van, which is currently with customs.
Two vets, Pooja Dorle from India and Bridie Chapman from New Zealand, have been employed for the four-month programme and are being paid by Care Vets.
With a shortage of vets in New Zealand, Pooja Dorle was looking to move there, when she came across the opportunity to come to Rarotonga.
Having a number of different pets while growing up in India, she had wanted to become a vet from an early age. She will be here for the duration of the programme and will then move on to work in New Zealand.
Rotorua vet tech Brydie Chapman grew up on a farm before doing her three-year degree.
Her qualification is relatively new and she says it can lead to many areas in veterinary work. She will return to work for Care Vets in Hamilton when she leaves the island.
After the four months is up, Te Are Manu will be left with a room set up with all the valuable equipment and supplies that have been brought over for the programme.