Pet Life – Who is SPCA?

Old Mama Ody was brought in as a stray, she was around six weeks old when she was found on the road side. She came in on Saturday, June 13 and still waiting to be adopted. Picture: SUPPLIED

SPCA stands for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Some know the sign, others may just notice it now with this article – but here is some of what happens behind that sign and that bamboo wall.

SPCA and humane societies of various sorts, and under various names all originated as a place of refuge for animals neglected and/or abused. They are a cornerstone to educating the general public about animals, particularly, but not entirely, domesticated animals. They are a cornerstone to doing something about these injustices in the way of influencing legislative efforts, offering shelter, providing veterinary care, and many other provisions.

SPCA Fiji Islands started up in 1953 and like in many parts of the world was an introductory pathway for animal care and veterinary services. Many overseas NGO shelter organisations only provide veterinary care for the animals at their shelter. Here in Suva, and at other NGO organisations such as PASH in the west, we offer basic veterinary medical and surgical care for anyone who needs this assistance for their animals. Other sources of veterinary care are very much lacking but happily, we have seen the existence and growth of private veterinarians for the general public, mostly concentrating on our small companion animals (cats, dogs and guinea pigs for example). Ministry of Agriculture continues to be the primary source of veterinary care for livestock animals, along with various specifically designated veterinarians and volunteers.

Since its inception, SPCA has been instrumental in facilitating volunteer veterinarians who have provided a range of services from assisting with Spay/Neuter clinics to the complex variety of other needs by the animal owners such as skin consultations, wound treatments and routine medical care. Volunteers, in particular, are invaluable in providing mass spay and neuter surgeries for community clinics – most recently organised into CLAW clinics.

With proper mentoring and supervision, recent local veterinary science graduates will be able to assume many of the roles the volunteers have provided and much more. By the same token, they will be able to disseminate invaluable information on the care of all our animals and provide basic veterinary care when allowed by licensing authorities.

What about the animals housed at SPCA – where do they come from? And what happens to them?

SPCA provides shelter (a temporary home) for animals in need. Some of these are homeless and wander the streets searching for food and shelter. These animals are often turned in to SPCA by good Samaritans or are collected by our SPCA transport when a report is made on the whereabouts. SPCA does not have the personnel nor resources to drive around the streets and collect animals but relies on the public for this assistance. Other animals are surrendered by owners because they cannot be cared for at their home anymore – reasons include death in the family, move to residence not favourable to keeping pets, move out of the country and other. Some are born at the shelter if the mom has been turned in to the shelter.

Are all animals on the street homeless?

Sadly, no. And those owned animals participate in the behaviours which give the homeless dogs a bad reputation. Then your dog comes home for a meal and shelter for the night, while the homeless dog suffers abuse, hunger and being cold and wet.

SPCA suggests the ideal situation is no street dogs or at least as few as possible and only in select areas where they can be cared for by community members. Ideally all owned dogs are kept on your property and not allowed to roam. Designated areas for exercise similar to dog parks overseas and leash walks should be the preferred methods of any dogs off their own home property. Higher fees for dogs not neutered should be a goal– unneutered male dogs roaming the streets are contributing to the problem of stray dogs – and those dogs purposely bred should have an even higher kennel fee. Changes in fees, fines and regulations come about when the public as a whole seems to be contributing to the problem.

What happens to dogs turned in to shelters?

Please note SPCA does not breed or sell puppies or dogs – they all arrive here homeless in some way, shape or form.
At SPCA these dogs go through processing – paperwork is generated which gives information on who is turning the dog in, what area they came from and other pertinent information as can be obtained. The stray dogs collected from the street usually do not tell us their history so that becomes a blank space. An initial medical evaluation determines if any injury or disease is treatable or manageable – unfortunately, severe injury can lead to a decision of euthanasia (humane death). They get onto a deworming program – to eliminate intestinal parasites commonly called worms. They are treated for external parasites – common ones are fleas, ticks and lice. Any medical condition is treated.

Vaccinations are given. And before the puppy or dog goes to a new home – adopted or rehomed – a neuter surgery is performed to stop this animal from contributing to the unwanted population. All of this medical program is based on the availability of the medication.

Meanwhile, the puppies and dogs are housed in a safe and comfortable environment as possible with as much socialising as possible. Socialising helps transition nicely to a new home.

All of this care SPCA would like to see in all our owned animals. Attitudes and acceptances make or break even the best program. If the public does not understand what it means to neuter their dog, if they do not understand how this participates in reducing the street and stray dog populations, or if they just do not care, then we have a never-ending problem. The government can only go so far in producing legislation – the public must individually do their part then as a whole community the results will be seen.

SPCA is here to help but cannot carry the entire burden of stray and homeless dogs. The stray dog problem is a people problem much the same way pollution is.

What else is done behind that bamboo curtain?

Fundraising to help as many homeless animals as possible, and to neuter as many stray dogs as possible. Raising awareness of the reasons for stray animals, the solutions to the problem, to acceptable care of animals and of cruelty. Coming up is a Thousand Paws walk with the two-pronged goal of raising funds and raising awareness.

Who are we and what do we do – SPCA is an organisation of like-minded people who have various roles but all with the combined goal of preventing cruelty to animals. Education on animal care, veterinary services, ‘birth control’, attending to reports of cruelty and education on what constitutes cruelty. We encourage you to make an appointment to bring your puppy or kitten, dog or cat for checkup and consultation on how to care properly for them – the first 6 months require the greatest effort which, if done properly, can lead to years of enjoyment with your animal companions. The veterinary staff can advise on these and other things, such as what medications to give or not to give; what to feed, when and how much; what behaviours to watch for that tell if your animal is healthy or sick; first aid when needed and much more.

SPCA is an organisation of animal care, animal welfare and veterinary care – we provide people with the opportunity to find a wonderful dog or cat companion while finding a home for a stray.

  •  Dr Jo Olver is a veterinarian with SPCA Fiji Islands. The information provided in this article is for general guidance only. SPCA Fiji Islands urges the public to seek professional veterinary advice for your particular situation and needs. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily shared by this newspaper.


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