Pandemic pressures force Bajans to send hundreds of dogs to Canada

Financial pressures created by the pandemic has been touted as the primary reason behind the recent move that saw Barbados send approximately 200 dogs and 30 cats to Canada, where they are expected to be re-homed.

The animals left Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport on Saturday (May 29) as part of The Barbados Ruffugee Project, a collaboration between the Barbadian non-profit Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary and the Eastern Ontario Potcake Rescue (EOPR).

According to the founder of Ocean Acres, Karen Whittaker, it was necessary for the animals to find new homes in Canada, as local shelters were seeing an uptick in demand for services and had limited space.

Though limited space to house the animals was among the primary reasons for sending the animals off, at least one shelter volunteer admitted that the pandemic had given rise to an increase in reports of animal abuse.

“We are out of room, we are out of help, and moving these 200 dogs and cats to Canada is going to allow us this afternoon to go and bring in all the ones that are waiting either in foster homes or in dire situations where we need to go and get them out,” a shelter  volunteer told Barbados Today.

Similarly, a director at one of the island’s animal shelters, Charmaine Hatcher, shared that financial pressures caused by the pandemic made it difficult for many families to care for their pets .

Hatcher explained that to make matters worse, because of the COVID shutdown, the shelter had to halt all adoptions.

“So our shelter is absolutely swamped. There are only 35 of our animals leaving here today, but that 35 is a big weight off of us,” said Clarke.

“When we started, to lots of people that was included it seemed like a mammoth task, but in just a few months we have done it and I think that actually shows how much people care about the dogs and cats of Barbados,” Clarke added.

The chartered flight to transport the animals came at a price tag of $202,000 CAD, donations were used to finance the cost.