It’s a simple case of economics. Supply and demand. Canada has a shortage of adoptable dogs and Antigua had an oversupply of rescued dogs. It’s a perfect fit and the non-profit organisation of Dogs and Cats of Antigua have found a way to meet that need. With generous partners and supporters, they have arranged for airlifts and persons taking rescued dogs from Antigua up to the partnered shelters in Canada and the USA.
Why does Canada have a shortage of adoptable dogs? It’s because of the excellent spay and neuter programme in place. Spaying the female dogs before their first heat and neutering the males, reduces cancers, extends life spans and address unwanted behaviours like territory marking and aggression. Most importantly, it also allows population control.
Dogs and Cats of Antigua began was founded in January 2015 by Joy Farrell and incorporated in May that year with a board of five. Run by volunteer power and one permanent staff on the books, it’s a labour of love for the volunteers who get involved with Dogs and Cats of Antigua. About 20 homes across the island act as foster homes for the rescued dogs before they are airlifted or travel buddied up to North America to families looking to adopt.
Known as NADs or Native Antiguan Dogs, these dogs are great fits in the homes of those who adopt them. “There’s something special about Antigua dogs,” describes a frequent volunteer at the Dogs and Cats of Antigua headquarters located in East Lightfoot in St. George’s parish, Antigua. A mixed bag blend of breeds such as ridgebacks and brindles, there is “pure love in the Antiguan dogs,” the volunteer asserts. The sweetness of these dogs is speculated to come from the gratitude the dogs have for being rescued from street life.
The shortage of homes in Antigua comes from the fact that dog lovers on the island already have four or five dogs already living with them so they are already at capacity. In Canada, with persons working from home more and in search of greater canine companionship, the demand for these dogs are at a high with a waiting list of 50 applications per dog. Considering that the last airlift in March 2021 had 87 Antiguan dogs and another 50 or so puppies from The Bahamas, that’s quite a demand for dogs.
Ontario-based shelter, Paws Across the Waters, now actively raises funds for the airlifts which are now forecasted to occur on a quarterly basis. Getting these dogs ready for travel is no easy feat, however. There are veterinary protocols to be met before flying that are both expensive and time-consuming. These include shots for rabies and tick-borne diseases, alongside heartworm treatments. It can take over a year for a dog to get ready for travel depending on the severity of its conditions at rescue. Heartworm treatments, for example, are seven-month-long processes before re-testing. The dogs have to also get comfortable interacting with people, which takes as much time as is needed.
With plans to expand their facilities, Dogs and Cats of Antigua, are on a mission to take the most severe cases of abandoned and street dogs and make a better life for them. Be that at their sanctuary, or finding new homes for them abroad. To follow the work that they do you can find them online on Instagram or Facebook.