Intervention saves Bahamian street dog sterilization project

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:

 

NASSAU, Bahamas––Veterinary protectionism nearly killed a
planned Bahamian street dog sterilization drive called Operation Potcake
2014, but intensive exposure by the Nassau Tribune and intervention by
prime minister Perry Christie appear to have saved it.
The international dog and cat sterilization charity Animal
Balance, the Veterinary Medical Association of the Bahamas, and the
Bahamas Humane Society on December 5, 2013 jointly announced that
Operation Potcake 2014 will proceed in January as originally scheduled.
Street dogs are called “potcakes” in the Bahamas and
elsewhere on English-speaking Caribbean islands after their habit of
licking caked peas and rice from the bottoms of food containers.
Operation Potcake debuted as a ten-day sterilization campaign
organized by Animal Balance on New Providence Island in January 2013.

“The goal was to sterilize 2,000 animals over the ten days,”
recalled Animal Balance founder Emma Clifford, who has directed
similar campaigns on islands from the Galapagos to Cape Verde since
2004. “Halfway through the campaign we had to make a plea for more
funds, as our five clinics were working so hard and so efficiently that
they were running seriously low on medicines. Our supporters kindly
came through. We ended the campaign having sterilized 2,315 dogs.”
The planned five-day follow-up, however, “was sunk,”
wrote Nassau Tribune reporter Krisna Virgil, “because the Veterinary
Medical Association of the Bahamas blocked the entry of foreign
volunteers set to donate their time and skills.”
Clifford appealed to prime minister Christie, who had publicly
praised Operation Potcake 2013, to help ensure that the follow-up would
be done.
“It’s nothing to do with the government,” Bahamian
agriculture minister V. Alfred Gray said. “It’s about the foreign
vets not wanting to have a problem with the local vets who object. It
seems to me that if the local vets are objecting to the foreigners
coming in to assist with the spay/neutering program,” Grey added,
“they should pick up the slack and give something back to their
country.”
“The local vets said they would undertake the project
themselves,” Virgil recounted, “but could only do so over three
days and for $50 per surgery––a price the non-profit organisers say
they cannot afford.”
After a week of Facebook fury over the reported cancellation of
Operation Potcake 2014, the Veterinary Medical Association of the
Bahamas on December 3, 2013 issued a statement attributing the
situation to “misunderstandings and unfortunate lack of
communication.”
The statement cited past local veterinary cooperation with
government-led pet sterilization programs in Bimini, Exuma, Inagua,
and San Salvador, and with the Bahamian charity Eleuthera Animal
Rescue.
As part of the negotiations that saved Operation Potcake 2014,
the participants said, an Operation Potcake Steering Committee was
formed, to include the four members of the Veterinary Medical
Association of the Bahamas executive committee, the president of the
Bahamas Humane Society, the president of the local dog charity Baark!,
and two additional animal welfare representatives.

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