The project wrapped up last Friday at Te Are Manu’s facilities in Arorangi with 25 dogs being added on the final day, taking the total to 802.
New Zealand vet Keith Houston said: “I think the result has been fantastic and I think everybody should be pleased with it.
Houston said some people were sceptical at the start and in fact: “Some people were saying we’d be lucky to get 300 …”
But it wasn’t an easy project for those involved.
“It was a lot of work … mainly because we have had to go out and pick the dogs up and bring them in ourselves.
“Reviewing it, we could have approached it a little differently and maybe got each village to get the dogs together to bring them in. That would be a good way to do it.”
The Rarotonga desexing project was funded by Dogs Trust UK and the SPCA managed the project to sterilise 800 dogs in four months. CareVets in New Zealand, of which Houston is a member, provided the veterinary skills for free.
“CareVets has 22 clinics in the North Island, but we really are a banner group of different owner practices.
Our volunteer work is our donation,” he said.
“Most of the work has been done by Pooja Dorle, who is a vet from India. She has done a lot of these projects before.”
While the desexing programme was being scoped in a survey it was found there were about 4500 dogs on Rarotonga, 1500 of which had not been operated on, Houston said.
“So we’ve got half of them and it should have a reasonable impact. It’s half the dogs that need to be done.”
The SPCA’s country manager, Tony Jamieson, says the results of the project were very pleasing.
“It was hugely beneficial for the country, its animals and their owners. We have healthier animals and we’ve been able to treat other conditions. During the project we re-homed several undernourished dogs.
“Things are changing here in that people are caring for their animals better. People are more interested in finding out how to look after their animals. There is a real change in interest in animal welfare in the Cooks.
“We have encountered a lot of people during the course of the project who obviously care a great deal about looking after not only their own animals, but those of their neighbours, families or friends.
“They may be limited in what they can provide, but they are keen to do what they can.”
Jamieson said: “We have now seen this from a community standpoint. We have seen a couple of thousand households and I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude of animal owners.
“There is a real interest from business owners and the public, to keeping dog population numbers at a reasonable level.”
He said: “This initial project has been a success brought about by the generosity of Dog Trust UK and the hard work of the people securing the money such as, primarily, Robyn Kippenberger, Stephanie Saunders and Sharon Reichardt.”
Dog Trust UK donated $100,000 for the de-sexing initiative and the SPCA fundraised a further $20,000.
“The SPCA would love to thank the businesses that provided incentives to reward people doing well in the community and all of the volunteers who helped support the programme.
“We’d love it to continue through and a message to the public is please don’t wait until the next project,” said Jamieson.
“Bring your cats and dogs in.”