Archive for April 4th, 2014

Animal charity takes on abuse

| 04/04/2014 | 45 Comments

(CNS): Given the reluctance of people to report cases of animal cruelty, the Humane Society is offering itself as an intermediary for anonymous reports of abuse and neglect.The local charity is asking people to call them with as much detail as possible or post what they know on the website without any fear of reprisals. The chrity will then report the details to the authorities and follow up. In the wake of a recent shocking abuse case when an emaciated dog was dropped off at the society's shelter, near death, in February, Michele Sabti, the charity's education officer said the case was far from an isolated incident and the society had to find a way to address the too frequent cases of cruelty.

“We on the frontline of animal welfare have to inform everyone that unfortunately we come across animal abuse on a regular basis,” she said at a press briefing on Friday to announce the action that the charity hopes can help to alleviate worrying levels of animal cruelty.

Recognizing that neighbours may be afraid to call the agriculture department or the police when they see abuse of animals, as they are always asked for their details and fear that the government agencies may reveal who they are to the perpetrators, the Humans Society is offering an open invitation to the public at large to call them or go on their website and submit the details regarding what they know about neglect and abuse of animals.

“The fact is living amongst us all are a small number of people who see nothing wrong in abusing a defenceless animal,” Sabti said.

“Being a very small island, people are very nervous about reporting something like an animal cruelty case to the police or the department of agriculture as they don’t usually want to be identified,” she said, but when the cases are not reported the perpetrators can never be held responsible for their action and will continue to abuse the animals.

As a result, she said, the society would step in and try to take on the abuse by taking the anonymous reports.  Sabti assured people that they could report to the Humane Society with complete confidence that their identity will not be required, just the details of where the animal at risk is located and what they know about the animal's suffering.

The society will then take up the case and follow through with the authorities and if it is an emergency move to rescue the animal. She said that if necessary, volunteers will go to the location. Although they have no authority to go on anyone’s property they can still view places where dogs or any other animals are at risk of cruelty and check the circumstances from a distance and use what influence they have to make sure those with authority can remove the animal.

Sabti said that going forward with the new initiative the charity will be keeping detailed records of the reports and following up because to date no one knows the extent of the problem as no records have been kept, either by the Humane Society or the authorities.

With no one able to say if there has ever been a single case brought before the courts in Cayman regarding animal cruelty, the society said that it will now be monitoring what happens with the reports made to the charity.

Given the numbers of animals that they see at the shelter, the cases reported to other non-governmental organizations and to local vets, the volunteers at the Humane Society all believe that the problem is significant.

The society’s treasurer, Lesley Walker, said that with more than 50 dogs and even more cats euthanized every month in such a small jurisdiction, it was clear animal cruelty was blight on the community.

The causes are clearly multifaceted, but the lack of enforcement of any of the laws and regulations relating to breeding, importation and how animals are kept was cited as one of the main issues which had facilitated what some see as extensive animal abuse.

Walker urged people to raise their concerns with their MLAs because if it is a matter of resources, the only people that can address it are the politicians and if they realize how outraged the community is by the levels of abuse, they will act. Pointing to the 60,000 hits and the outrage over abused dog, Teddy, Sabti said it was clear that while there are abusers living among us, the vast majority of people in Cayman care and want to see animals properly taken care of.

She also revealed that Teddy has since his eleventh hour rescue from death begun his recovery. Although he still has some way to go she said the vets were hopeful that he would make it. Whoever did leave Teddy at the society saved his life, she added.

With the volunteers and local vets all aware that 'Teddy' was just the tip of the iceberg, the Humane Society is hopeful that if they can act as an intermediary as well as a direct rescue centre it can begin to tackle the issue and protect the many animals at risk.

“We are pleading with everyone who cares, to stand beside us and put all those who abuse or neglect animals on notice that we are not going to tolerate it anymore,” Sabti said.

Anyone who has seen animals being abused, is aware of neglect or cruelty or even abandoned pets can contact the society via phone on 949 1461, email caymanhumane@candw.ky or visit the website www.caymanhumanesociety.com or the Facebook page or even drop a note to the offices in George Town at 153 North Sound Road.

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As dump grows, Brackers urged to learn the three R’s

| 04/04/2014 | 25 Comments

(CNS): An initiative launched on Grand Cayman by all the service clubs to encourage people to recycle has now spread to Cayman Brac. Reduce (avoid buying stuff with a lot of packaging), reuse (find other ways to use items when you’re done with them) and recycle – the three R’s – is the critical message that has now been presented by representatives from the “Join In” campaign to all the students on the Brac at the primary and high schools and at the UCCI campus, as well as Brac service clubs and anyone else interested. As the dump on the south side of the Brac grows, now almost reaching the height of the Bluff, residents are asked to collect aluminium cans and put them in the bins around the Brac and to start collecting glass and plastic, even though these are not yet recycled on the island.

The service clubs recognised that recycling needs to happen on all three islands but the project is just too big for a single club, Kiwanis President Kadi Pentney (pictured above at the Brac dump) told CNS when she and Rotary Sunrise President, JD Mosley-Matchett, came to the Brac to fire up Brackers to start recycling.

There are Department of Environmental Health (DEH) recycling bins for aluminium cans all over the island: at all three primary schools, Panama Canal Park, Kirkconnell’s Market, Billy's Supermarket, West End (RUBIS) Texaco, the Market Place, Brac Snack Shack and at the West End Community Park.

Residents are urged to collect all their cans and dump them in the bins; it’s OK to keep them in the plastic bags they are collected in, just stop putting them in with the rest of the garbage so that they just go to the landfill site, Pentney and Mosley-Matchett said.

“People are ready to recycle but they don't know what to do,” Pentney said, noting that most people don’t even notice that the recycling bins are there until it’s pointed out to them.

The “Join In” initiative is keen to work with the DEH in their efforts and have asked the DEH representative on the Brac, Thomas Augustine, what they can do to help. One way they want to do this is to find ways to keep glass and some plastic out of the Brac dump. While these materials are already being recycled on Grand Cayman, this has not yet begun on the Brac, and the service clubs are making efforts to coordinate with the private recycling companies and the DEH to get this going.

They are hoping that the companies will supply some of the bins required – they need about six – but are also looking for sponsors. The bins are around $250 each and sponsors can put their logo on them for additional advertising.

In the meantime, they are asking Brackers to start separating and collecting plastic bottles (without the caps) and glass as well as beer and soda cans, so that they can demonstrate the need and show that they are willing to participate.

Ideally, the Brac should have its own glass crusher, and the campaign is hoping that they can find a sponsor or someone to raise funds to buy one. Currently, glass collected on Grand Cayman goes to the Dart glass crusher to be reused and sold for construction.

The cans collected on Cayman Brac are sent to Grand Cayman. The aluminium cans and some plastics collected on Grand Cayman are crushed, baled and, when they have a full container, sent to Miami and sold.

“One person can make a difference,” Pentney said, “because they can encourage other people to recycle. One child can become a whole class, and then a whole school.”

Find out more about recycling on Cayman Brac

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Health workers urged to get healthy

| 04/04/2014 | 14 Comments

(CNS): The public health department will be launching a three month workplace wellness programme on Monday, World Health Day, to encourage its own workers at the Health Services Authority (HSA) to ‘Take the Challenge – Be Fit: Stay Healthy'. Each participant is required to keep personal goals which are monitored throughout the programme, as well as a follow-up check one year from now.  Given the role staff have at the HSA to help others keep well, Lizzette Yearwood, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Services Authority, said that wellness inthe workplace at the hospital was very important.

“We strive to provide the best healthcare experience to our patients so it is important to encourage our staff take care of their physical and mental health as well,” she said. “Last year’s Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference theme was focused on the shared approach to workplace wellness, which is a reflection of how important employee wellness is on a day to day basis.”

Yearwood said there were plans to implement  many employee health initiatives as an outcome from that conference.

Dr Kiran Kumar, Medical Officer of Health, said he is looking forward to this year’s programme. 

“We offer this wellness programme to staff, as well as facilitating it to other government and private organisations and have been doing so since 2006.  This three month programme is designed to encourage staff to expand their outlook on wellness and encourage healthy living by eating well, increasing physical activity, reducing stress and building healthier self-esteem,” he added.

The programme offers a range of activities including educational lunch-and-learn sessions as well as group counselling sessions covering topics such as how to best manage stress.  It was open to all HSA staff through an open enrollment process and Therese Prehay, Health Promotion Officer, said the response from staff has been positive. 

“This programme is very intensive and is designed so participants are more inclined to live a healthy lifestyle even after the programme is completed with an ongoing yearlong maintenance component”, Ms Prehay said.  “At the start of the programme each participant has his or her measurements of waist, height, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and blood work to test cholesterol and blood glucose taken to document their starting point,” she said, adding that there would be prizes for various categories bringing an element of friendly competition to encourage employees.

For more information about this programme, contact Therese Prehay at the Public Health Department, 244-2632.

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No PAD for Ironwood

| 04/04/2014 | 60 Comments

(CNS): Developers of the proposed $360 million development in Frank Sound have said it is unlikely that they will be submitting a Planned Area Development application for this project, despite its size. David Moffitt said he was expecting to submit a planning application sometime this month for another part of the project but it appears the developers will continue submitting applications piecemeal. Despite warnings from the Department of Environment regarding the size of the project and its potential impact on the community and natural resources in an area home to many of Cayman’s endangered endemic species, the authorities will not get to consider this project holistically.

Speaking at a public meeting in North Side last week, Moffitt revealed that alongside a proposed golf course, residential and commercial buildings and a retirement village, all covering several hundred acres, the developers also plan to dredge lakes in the area. 

Although Moffitt said the developers would undertake some type of environmental audit, given the mounting ecological threat this development and the accompanying road extension pose, the decision not to submit a planned area development has raised concerns amongst environmental activists.

Sustainable Cayman, a local advocacy group of the environment, said this week in a CNS Viewpoint that the “current impromptu method of development based primarily upon the interests of private investors” would not solve the Caymans' economic problems but it would sacrifice the environment.

Since 2012 the Department of the Environment has been raising its concerns about the proposed project, not because it is trying to stop it but because of the expressed desire to examine the plans in their entirety rather than bit by bit. Given the impact that such a huge new development would have in the area, the DoE has said that all of the wider implications should be considered in context before it is given the green light.

During last week’s public meeting most of the residents of North Side who attended appeared to welcome the project as they seemed to believe it would bring jobs, prosperity and more development in its wake to the district. Only a few residents were concerned about the change it would bring and the obvious destruction of natural critical habitat, the threats to National Trust wetlands, Mastic Trail and Reserve, the Botanic Park and even the local fresh water lens.

Ezzard Miller, the MLA for the district who organised the meeting, which was the first time the developers had spoken to his constituents and allowed them to ask questions, was concerned that the developers would not necessarily be willing to pay North Siders the wages that they should be paid. Despite promises, he was worried that in the end, like many other developers before them, they would seek cheap labour from overseas, leaving locals unemployed. The popular representative was also concerned about what it would do to the district.

“While it might sound good, I am concerned about changing the face of North Side and what a potential influx of 2,000 people into the district might do without the correct supporting infrastructure,” he said. Expressing concerns about the water lens and environmental threats, Miller was, however, not too worried about the developers decision over the PAD. He said the most important thing was that the people of North Side were kept fully informed about the details of the development and involved in it if it went ahead.

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CNB closes Edward Street branch with no staff loss

| 04/04/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Cayman National Bank has closed its Edward Street customer service centre but the bank says all 13 staff members will be redeployed elsewhere in the company to manage the redistribution of client business traffic. CNB said in a statement that the lease for the building is expiring this year and the branch no longer serves the firm's strategic objectives, so they decided not to renew the lease. CNB President Ormond A. Williams stated, “In this difficult economic climate where businesses are reducing their staff complement, we have taken the approach to retain, retrain and redeploy our existing staff, which is a true testament of the Cayman National ethos and commitment to the socio-economic development of our community.” Read more on CNS Business

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Pond smell could get worse

| 04/04/2014 | 98 Comments

(CNS): Plans by the owner of the Alexander Hotel on Cayman Brac to dig out part of the adjacent Saltwater Pond in order to get rid of the bad smell could backfire. Not only is there no certainty that excavating one third of the pond will help alleviate the stink but it could actually make things worse, according to Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. Hotel owner Cleveland Dilbert informed staff earlier this week that he was shutting down the Alexander after Cabinet insisted that he had to produce an environmental impact assessment before they could approve his coastal works application, which is part of a project to turn Saltwater Pond into a marina. However, it appears the hotel will not be closing after all.

"The Alexander Hotel will remain open as we work in partnership to find solutions," Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell announced on the PPM Facebook page Wednesday, following “extensive talks” with Dilbert. (Below: the hotel sits next to Saltwater Pond, which emits a strong smell when the water level is low.)

Talking to The Caymanian Compass the same day, Dilbert claimed negotiations with government this week were “successful” and that he had been given authority (though the article was not clear by whom) to begin work on the “basin section” of the pond, pending approval from the Development Control Board. 

However, commenting on the article, the DoE director said that several points needed to be clarified.

“Regarding the multiple claims in the article that excavating the pond will address the odour problem, the applicant has provided no evidence that excavating one-third of the pond will fix the smell. What of the remaining two-thirds which will be up-wind of the hotel?” Ebanks-Petrie asked. "To the best of my knowledge, there has been no proper investigation of the hydrology of the pond, the depth and characteristics of the sediments in the pond, or of the geology (for example, will it need to be blasted before it can be dug) in the location in which the Dilberts intend to excavate", she added. 

“If the geology permits them to dig to their proposed depth, this will come with its own challenges in terms of maintaining good water quality. Deeper, artificially created ponds generally have poorer water circulation and poorer light penetration, both of which will likely contribute to low dissolved oxygen levels and poor water quality. In addition, by removing the sediments the connection to ground water will likely be enhanced, thus creating the potential for the introduction of excess nutrients through connections with deep wells from septic tanks on the surrounding properties as well as from land-based run-off,” she explained.

“If not approached carefully, and without a full understanding of both the natural pond ecosystem and the exact cause of the smell, excavation could result in making things worse,” Ebanks-Petire warned. “One of the DoE’s long-standing concerns is the detrimental impact on the marine environment resulting from opening this pond system to the sea.”

The DoE director also addressed suggestions in the article that the Dilbert family might not be fully responsible for covering the cost of the environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“Developers pay for EIAs because they have an obligation and a duty to demonstrate, with facts, that what they are proposing will not have irreversible, adverse effects on the environment and society. In this case the developer is proposing to impact public crown-owned resources (the pond belongs to the crown, as does the seabed),” Ebanks-Petrie said. “In our view this creates an even greater imperative for the developer to demonstrate that no harm will be done.”

She also questioned some of the claims made by Dilbert in the article about the marina project.

“Mr Dilbert acknowledges that he is not an environmental expert but claims that ‘after extensive research and consultation on our part, we are very confident that the proposed project, overall, will prove to not pose as a threat,” the DoE director said. “To date, Mr Dilbert has not produced any of this ‘extensive research’ to aid the decision making process. If he has this information, he needs to make it available to the DoE and the government as soon as possible.”

CNS has asked the Dilbert family what extensive research has been done and if any of it is documented and is awaiting a response.

Related article on CNS:

Brac hotel closing in April

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Waterfront clean-up aims to clear out criminals

| 04/04/2014 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Police from George Town’s neighbourhood unit teamed up with the Recreations, Parks and Cemetery Unit clean-up crew at the capital’s waterfront this week to beautify the area and prevent criminal activity in the vicinity of the Fish Market. The objective behind the clean-up was twofold, Chief Inspector Howell, the District Commander for George Town, said, explaining it would make the area look more attractive, given how essential tourism is to the local economy and also deter criminal activities. She said that this particular area has been known to “harbour undesirables”, who drink booze as well as sell and use drugs there.

The cops and clean-up crew cut down trees and bush to remove the cover for dealers in the wake of contradictory proposals released by the Chamber of Commerce to pedestrianise downtown George Town, which include plans for more vegetation and natural shade.

The police, however, always prefer open areas, where villains and those up to no good have nowhere to hide. As the capital of the islands, the police pointed to the importance of George Town and the need to do all that is necessary to keep the local people and visitors safe on a daily basis.

Howell urged everyone to play their part in securing the reputation of the Cayman Islands by reporting those who may be defacing properties within these areas, loitering or selling and using illegal drugs.

“We cannot be everywhere; therefore, we rely on you, the good citizens of this country, to assist us in policing these Islands,” CI Howell said, as she thanked the Department of Environmental Health for undertaking the project with the police as well as those who donated the paint and other equipment.

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