Hard Times in Tobago

December 22, 2011  

With many strays, a lack of veterinary supplies and few animal cruelty laws, life for dogs can be difficult on the island of Tobago

By Lesly Nurse

I live in a country where there are few laws pertaining to animal cruelty. Poison is freely available, so it is quite common for someone to poison your dog either because they do not like you or your dog or because they intend to break into your property.

Having pit bulls in Tobago is not particularly easy. I have two pit bulls, Fairoe and Rochey, who I hand reared from the age of 2 days old. Many times when I am walking my dogs, I am either stopped by the police and asked if I am capable of managing the dogs, or I see people cross the street to avoid us.

As in many places, there are both responsible and totally irresponsible people. During the past year, on our sister isle, Trinidad, there have been a couple of dog attacks attributed to pit bulls that resulted in deaths. As you can imagine, this has caused a public outcry, and has resulted in the government seeking to reform the Dangerous Dog Act. Many of us have suggested the promotion of responsible ownership and dog licenses, and for all dogs to wear a means of identification. We are still awaiting the outcome.

Our government does not keep any statistics pertaining to dog bites or attacks and, of course, it is only attacks by pit bulls that gain media attention. This makes it hard, and I have seen anything from a Rottweiler to a stray hound identified as a pit bull. There are huge numbers of strays here because the average mentality can’t understand the importance of spaying or neutering pets. It is quite common to see children tormenting dogs in peoples’ gardens.

As a veterinary assistant, I see that most of the dogs that come to us are pit bulls, and they suffer mainly from mange and allergies. I am often asked, “How do I make my dog bad?” and my answer is always, “Give them plenty of love, hugs and kisses!”

It is hard for an individual to change all that needs to be changed here. Sadly, last year I had euthanize my dear friend Marney, who was only 2 years old. Yes, we had the medical expertise to save him, but not the equipment. We had to do a transfusion, and the local hospital refused to supply us the needed bags and lines because they were for a dog. By the time I could get the items needed it was too late. So the next stage in my life started.

I am in the process of registering The Marney Trust, the purpose of which is to build a first-class animal clinic/hospital here in Tobago. Attached will be an education center – I have to say that it will mostly pertain to pit bulls – and schools and youth clubs, etc., will be encouraged to visit. There will be a pit bull registry, which hopefully will stop in-breeding, a dog training center, and action groups to petition the government on the many aspects of animal welfare needed here. We will also be collecting at least one stray dog a week to spay or neuter and release.

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5 Responses to “Hard Times in Tobago”
  1. Glad you are taking charge in educating and saving pit bulls.

  2. pittbulllover says:

    Thanks…this was a picture of Fairoe taken at the beach when he picked up a stray human..it was amazing the little boy just came up to us and started hugging Fairoe

  3. Adrienne Clegg says:

    You have a great heart and the right idea.Education and example are they keys to change. Thank you for your love and dedication.

  4. KayFogleman says:

    All the luck in the world 2 u and the pitties! This is a true story and I find it ironic ,a woman was walking her pit and a woman approaching her jumped out on the street 2 avoid being close 2 the dog ,and got hit by a car ! The ignorance of people still amazes me about how they conceive pitties!!

  5. MaryannRoti says:

    Lesly, I spent 9 days in the beautiful town of Charlotte located on Tobago a few years ago and have some beautiful pictures of the strays of the island. When we were in Trinidad the neighbor had just bred their pitbulls for the purpose of protective dogs. It is sad how the dogs are treated there by many, not like the cherished family pet here in the US.