Cook Islands SPCA is introducing a $25 fee for tourists to visit its shelter to combat rising costs. 23063016
As the number of abandoned dogs coming into the Cook Islands SPCA triples and pet food prices sky-rocket, the animal welfare organisation is urging visiting tourists to give a fixed donation to help it stay afloat. Joanne Holden reports.
SPCA president and shelter manager David Pokia said as of
July, the cost for tourists to drop into the organisation’s base in Vaimaanga
will be $25 per person, with discounts available for groups and repeat visitors
only needing to pitch in $15.
“It’s just getting too expensive to keep running while
letting people come and go,” Pokia said.
“Locals don’t have to pay to walk our dogs, only tourists.”
Previously, entry was free for everybody.
“One week we can have 20 tourists through without a single
donation, then someone can stick their hand through the fence with $200,” Pokia
“What we need is more little donations.
“People can even bring up a bag of dog food or flea and
worming treatments, just things like that helps with costs as well.”
Pokia said the price of an eight-kilogram bag of dog food
was $55, compared to $34 just six months ago.
“And, sometimes, there’s no dog food on the island.”
The inflation was compounded by the increasing number of
dogs needing to be housed at the shelter, from 12 dogs two years ago to 35
today – not including the 11 stray dogs Pokia was looking after at his home.
“The numbers doubled after the borders opened and doubled
again just a few months ago.”
Pokia said the announcement that the organisation was
‘stretched thin’ and would be introducing a visitor fee had attracted extra
support on social media.
“We have people donating to us who haven’t been to
Getting visitors could be “feast or famine”, Pokia said.
“Today [Friday], for example, we had nobody.
“Last public holiday, we had people flowing in. We were open
until 3pm because we’d come back from walking the dogs to the waterfall with
one group, and there’d be another one waiting.”
Pokia said walking with tourists was a great tool for
socialising the dogs.
“The more contact our dogs have with people, the better they
are as a pet,” he said.
“I want everyone to have fun – the dogs, the tourists, and
Pokia said the organisation had secured private funding for
solar panels to bring electricity and water pressure to the facility.
Meanwhile, the shelter would soon be getting its first full-time
worker, freeing Pokia up to help with “rounding up dogs and having them