Animal welfare – Who cares?

| 09/05/2010

As a citizen of this country I am often confused over the many contradictions that exist here. We make some interesting claims about how sophisticated we are financially and how much wealth we have. We brag about our BlackBerry penetration being one of the best in the world and yet socially we lag behind on so many important issues.

One issue that has recently come to my attention is how we treat our animals. We brag about all of these things, yet Cayman does not have a single dog park!

I was the proud owner of two lovely dogs for most of my adult life – Oscar and Rupert. Admittedly they were like children to me and when I moved to Cayman I could not imagine leaving them in the States. Arrangements were made for them to come and for the 13 years that they were alive they wanted for nothing. Ironically, neither was a pedigree but both had been rescued from uncertain futures, including the pound. I also had the privilege of growing up with Prince – my aunt’s mixed breed dog who, I recall, was fiercely protective and a lot of responsibility. As a child I was responsible for making sure that he was walked twice per day and fed. As it turned out he was a wonderful childhood companion. Perhaps this is why my love and understanding of animals is deep-seated and ingrained from a young age. As the saying goes, the best lessons are learnt early on.

I’ve always been appalled at stories of animal abuse and animal neglect and how seemingly accepted these acts are in our so-called sophisticated and Christian community. When reading stories of animals being tortured, iguanas being brutally executed and knowing that many in our community could care less, I realize that we have some serious questions to ask ourselves. Our lack of a social conscience when it comes to the animals that we share this planet with is nothing short of horrific. I often wonder if people know that individuals who have psychotic tendencies often start with the abuse of animals and then move onto humans from there.

Until recently most people did not even know about the existence of the Animal Law. Albeit archaic, it’s a start towards legislating against animal cruelty. In 46 of the 50 states animal cruelty is a felony with serious consequences. When was the last time you can recall anyone being successfully prosecuted here for animal abuse or neglect?

My own recent experiences have taught me that neither pet owners, the police or even the judiciary are aware of the law and its contents. Owners do not know that they are supposed to register their animals with the Department of Agriculture or that the law conveys other responsibilities on them.

Our commitment to revising the laws on animal cruelty appears to be non-existent. We have the very bare minimum resources dedicated to this with only 1 animal welfare officer in the Cayman Islands. The Humane Society is strapped for resources and volunteers often see the worse cases of abuse. Our stray population of cats and dogs is out of control and most people hold onto the perverse attitude that there is something innately wrong with spading/neutering their pets.

I am no expert on this topic but recently my heart has been drawn to the issue on a personal level. I can’t fathom how people would chose to spend money on a purebred just to have bragging rights of ownership and not fully understand this is a life-long commitment that you have undertaken. I have always said that in some respects dog ownership is a more serious commitment than having children. At some point children grow up and most are able to help themselves. Dogs will always require someone to feed them, walk them and seek medical attention for them as well.

Dogs are complex creatures that not only require physical exercise but also mental stimulation. Some breeds are very smart and would have been bred for hundreds of years for a particular task. I am often amazed at how little a person bothers to educate themselves about the breed of dog that they own and what specific needs they may have that are unique to their breed. I have witnessed dogs running in circles as though they are stir-crazy because they are locked up on back porches with automatic feeds and newspaper to use the bathroom. The lack of understanding that it is NOT natural for a dog to eat, sleep, play and defecate in the same area is astounding.

How would you feel if you were incarcerated in these conditions with little human contact? Allowing a dog to get basic exercise to me seems like a no-brainer and yet we have many people in our community who tie dogs up and think they are wonderful pet owners and have fulfilled their obligations.

Being a responsible pet owner is much more than just providing adequate water, food and shelter for your pet. Domestic pets are completely dependent on their owners for their welfare. Many people do not realize that dogs are pack animals just like we are and thrive on operating as part of a family and hierarchy. In fact, we can learn a lot about leadership and the natural rules of discipline from dogs. Just like us they require companionship and proper socialization. Recently I was touched by a story of an elderly man with dementia who had gotten lost. When they found him, sadly he had passed away, but his dog had stayed with him for 7 days until he was found. They are indeed man’s best friends and their loyalty has often led to these heroic tales. Yet, we (the supposed smartest of all animals) often fail them.

If you have a dog that you cannot take care of know that someone out there will give that dog the love and time commitment that it needs. Do not keep a dog just for the sake of saying that you have one. Put yourself in that dog’s position for a moment – is that how you would like to be treated? If not, find them a good home.

In closing I wanted to leave you with some general tips about caring for your dog:

• Owning a pet is a lifetime commitment. If you can’t make the commitment, don’t get the pet. Dogs can live for 15 years depending on the breed. Educate yourself about dogs in general and how you can be the most responsible pet owner. It is never a good idea to get a pet based on a small child wanting one. Ultimately the responsibility of caring for that animal will fall on the parent.

• Choose a pet that fits your lifestyle. Don’t get a high energetic dog, if you don’t have the time to exercise him. Know that even small dogs require walking. If you can’t afford grooming or can’t do the grooming yourself, pick a low maintenance dog. If you travel a lot consider how that will impact your pet as well.

• Spay or neuter your pets. There are too many homeless animals without adding to the problem. You will add years to their life and lessen behavioral problems if you take the time to spay or neuter your pet.

• Don’t make your dog a "backyard dog". Dogs strive on companionship and need to be with their human pack. They will protect and love interacting with others if they have been properly socialized.

• Be aware of weather conditions. Leaving your dog in the car on a hot day or in the yard without shade or water is risking your dog’s life. Imagine how hot even back porches can be in Cayman’s heat.

• Make sure your home is "pet" safe. Pesticides, medications, household cleaners and some houseplants (dieffenbachia, philodendron, hyacinth, and mistletoe) can be deadly to your pet. Keep them out of reach. Puppies are especially vulnerable as they enjoy exploring and putting thing in their mouths. If you have children also monitor your children around your pets. They can unintentionally harm your pet or get bitten by a pet who misunderstands their intentions.

• Provide veterinary care for your pet. Keep their vaccinations up to date and make sure they have annual checkups. What you may consider a minor thing like eye infections can cause blindness if left untreated.

• Keep identification tag on your pet … it is your pet’s ticket back home. Both dogs and cats need ID!! Microchipping is good too, but an external tag is essential; it could mean the difference of your neighbor returning your pet to you or turning him into the pound. The Department of Agriculture requires you to register your pet with them. Take the 5 minutes out of your business schedules to do this.

• Obedience train and socialize your animal.

• Don’t let your pets run loose. Dogs should be walked with leashes. Any outdoor off leash access should be secure in a fenced area. An outdoor cat’s average lifespan is 3 years; an indoor cat’s average lifespan is 14 years.

• Provide your pet the proper diet. Speak to your vet about their dietary needs. Not all pet foods are created equal. Obesity can be as deadly as malnutrition. Be aware that some foods can be deadly, such as chocolate, and fatty foods can cause pancreatitis.

• Make sure your pet gets the proper amount of exercise. I have personally found this is a wonderful time for you to also get exercise also and to bond with your dog. Dogs love to explore and see new things and a walk around the neighborhood would offer them this opportunity.

• Take extra precautions during holidays with fireworks, wrapping paper and other dangers. It is the scariest time for pets; make sure your pets are secure indoors. Also protect your pet during Halloween.

• Be kind to your pet and show them love … remember you are their world. Include your pet in your family activities. They love car rides and trips to the beach as well a visiting with other pets.

• Take special care of your pet during their senior years. Wouldn’t you want the same treatment?

I don’t know how much this viewpoint will make a difference but I certainly hope that people will think about their pets in a new, more humane way. I have had an eye opening experience as to how much we need to improve in this area and I hope you have as well. Remember that they are not there solely for our entertainment! We need them as much as they need us. Please do not neglect or abuse your pets!

"We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words."1877 – Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Can we stop talking about this stuff on a forum and just set up a day and time to make a protest? The only way to change something is to be heard and show the government it is a concern to many in the community.
    Let’s plan on next month on the 1st. Where should we be with out peaceful picket signs?


    Sandra I understand your concerns all too well. I am new to Cayman, originally from Texas, just moved here with my husband who is Caymanian, and while the laws in the states are much more strict on animal cruelty, the sheer volume of people who believe that dogs (and cats, and horses, and some children!) eat, sleep, play and defecate in the same area IS astounding! The only difference between here and Texas is that in the well populated areas of the state, there is a dog park for every 50 square miles or so. However, the community of dogs, dog owners and dog lovers in the Grand Cayman area is too large to ignore: my husband and I have been brainstorming for the past couple of weeks about how we may be able to get people interested in the development of a dog park. Since I am new to the island and my husband has been away for some time at University, we’re not exactly sure where to start. We have contacted the Humane Society and have gathered some rough estimates of companion animals on the island, but these are only estimates. Any ideas on what we could do to stir up the community and get this initiative off the ground??


    Email me anytime at

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well said Sandra and so right you are. verone in the cayman islands who sees a dog tied up or left in a cage should report the matter to the police.

    Off course the police will not beable to cope or indded be interested, after all they are not too concerned about the theft of gas by Government staff

    But flood the police with calls and maybe something will be done in setting up resources to takle the problem and police the old laws that are totally ignored by the police.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dept of Agriculture needs to enforce the Animal Cruelty Act and start prosecuting people for mis-treating animals, not just slapping them on the wrists.   There needs to be more than one animal welfare officer on island.  

    The Government needs to promote spay and neuter campaigns.

    The Government should support the Humane Society – $10,000 a year donation  is a joke.


    ALL animal charities and government need to work TOGETHER for the good of the cause. 

    Humane Society needs to promote its animals – get them on TV, get them out with the public.  How many dogs are in the Humane Society – 60?  What is the population of Cayman – 60,000?  Surely we can find homes for 60 dogs?!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad to see some positive discussion came out of the entire dog fiasco. Thanks for this article.

    Now – who will stand up and do something about it?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I had the experience of fostering an animal that was purchased in another country for a lot of $$$$$ without any knowledge of what the real back ground and breeding of this animal was. Needless to say the animal was unhealth and a total mess.  There was a happy ending to that story. I agree with Animalliberator that much can be done to correct the problem we have. There are so many people in the Cayman ISlands paying the big $$ for these animals in hopes of making more big money. Needless to say your are getting bad animals thus breeding and passing on more bad genes. So save your money and visit your local HS or animal shelter.  

    1. Any animal coming into the Cayman Islands must be spayed or neutured.

    2. If you are planning on breeding the DOA must approve you first by not only inspecting your kennels but your back ground and experience.

    3. Routine Inspections would be done without notice so the real condition can be reviewed. 

     4.If you are approved then you must register every litter with the DOA and such litters would be limited. No animal can have more than 1 litter every 2 years.

    5. A fee would apply to cover all of these services.

    There are good breeders and then there are backyard puppy mills that are horrible.

    I would like to think we could control this with strong guidelines and cost. Sadly, there are a few working for the DOA that are part of all of this importing. So the DOA needs to look to it’s employees first since they have the most control over what animals are let in to our country.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A very well written article.  You may think this is a problem only on your Island.  However I assure you even here in the USA we have the same issues. 

    When we have National Football League Stars holding dog fights on his estate it tells me we all have a long way to go in protecting ourloyal fur friends. 

    I have taken it upon myself to rescue animals that are chained to trees with no water on hot summer days, left outside on bitter cold winter nights.  As you said we humans are the caretakers of these creatures.  I consider it an honor my 3 fur babies allow me to be their "Mom".  My newest addition was adopted when his previous owner allowed him to run the roads, didn’t feed him properly and did not keep up with his shots.  He is now safe, put on weight and a happy pup.

    Thank you for posting this.  May I please use some of your post in another forum?





  8. Animaliberator says:

    I think personally this a pretty good article and also pretty much points out the ins- and outs of animal keeping as far as cats and dogs are concerned.

    Problem is that we keep filling one hole with the dirt that came out of another. We have to start and enforce the basics of animal keeping on an island such as ours in order to maintain a healthy balance.

    For starters, we need to impose a complete ban of animal imports for at least a year to see what impact that will have on the overall population. The CIHS is currently bursting out of the seams with animals with not enough potential owners to adopt them to. This could potentially change however if the condo associations could come up with a viable plan to have condo owners have animals under strict guidelines. I have heard the story a thousand times by now of condo owners who would love to care for a cat or dog but the associations will not hear of it, even if penalties are applied if for instance an owner does not clean up after their dog. This I find extremely inconsiderate and simply can’t see the reason why this has to be like this.

    Second, we need a total ban on local breeding for the same period of time awaiting similar results. Every cat and dog that enters the CIHS is spayed or neutered. If pedigree owners wish to breed their animal, they would need permission from the DoA and/or DoE or whoever else needs to be involved in that decision. This would be primarily for the protection and well being of new borns that may be dumped somewhere because of a lack of buyers as this will only add insult to injury.

    If we would only adhere to these few rules, the stray population should deminish up to a point that the authorities may adjust these rules in the future.

  9. Rufus B. Saye says:

    As a CIHS volunteer, I have to echo agreement with Ms. Catron’s points as well as those of most of the posters…

    The attitude that pets are disposable is reflected in attitudes towards people – that same self-centered thoughtlessness extends towards others.

    Mahatma Gandhi said it best:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

    And even more tellingly, as an outside observer:

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    ‘Nuf said.

  10. Anonymous says:

     Good luck. Cayman hasn’t even figured out that human rights are a good idea yet. 

    Just look at the ridiculous constitution we now have. 

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well said Sandra, will you please come and visit a house in my neighbourhoud and tell them that keeping a dog locked in a cage on the front porch all day and a dog constantly tied up in the back yard is nothing more than ignorant?

    Please dont let your fire of passoin be extinguished! Volunteer and spread the word of responsible dog ownership!

  12. Too simple says:

    Dogs are also property of their owners and those property rights should be respected by law abiding citizens.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, the law sees dogs as property and that does not give the property owner the right to abuse it, let it become a nuisance to other people and NOT take care of it.

      It’s just like a house – you can’t allow your house to become an issue for your neighbors adn there are rules to play by.

      However, for those of you who do not see animals as living creatures and just property that you can mistreat you are truly disturbed and should not own a pet.

      I agree that we need more enforcement and laws to stop the abuse!

    • Anonymous says:

      Response to "Too simple".  Your same "property rights" argument was also once applied to slave owners.  And thankfully, (most of) the world learned better and grew out of that mentality.  I sincerely hope you and those that should share your ALL too simplistic views grow as well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The problem with a dog park is that dog theives could hang out and steal people’s dogs…

    • Anonymous says:

      Well you have to keep your dog within your reach/eyes at all times and perhaps even on a leash!

      I fully support the dog park idea. Poor dogs here get so little interaction except at the annual dog show!

  14. Anonymous says:

    In my experience, the people who are abusing animals are too ignorant to read blogs such as this.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It is not just cats and dogs that are abused.  I have often seen horses tied up in various areas with no water in their buckets, or with their leads wrapped around their necks so they can’t eat.  I also recall a baby calf being killed by a pack of dogs – in George Town some years back when the mother cow and the calf were tied separately [supposedly to wean the calf] – but the mother could not reach to stop the dogs.  I agree with Sandra – some people should not be allowed to have animals of any kind.

    • Anonymous says:

      OMG!! How horrible!! People seemto have no sense when it comes to these things. How can you separate a calf from the mother like that?

  16. Anonymous says:

    The laws in Cayman do not have any teeth and the elected officials are afraid to get behind enforcing any laws as they are worried it would cost them votes.

    Just think about the planning law. Have you ever seen a house being torn down because of illegal add-ons (even worse, in cases where the add-ons are literally holes that are then rented out to some poor exploited immigrant)????

    As long as the current law (as outdated it may be) is being enforced and the proper funding to do so is made available (which cleary right now is not going to happen), nothing will change!

  17. Caymanian at Heart says:

    Something I have had in mind lately that what Cayman really needs is an animal rights advocates group.  The Humane Society has to remain neutral and cannot openly petition reform or organize public petitions.

    I beg the young Caymanians to consider beginning such a group to help bring about awareness and actively petition to bring about reform.  This group could be used to petition animal cruelty, the captive dolphin programs on island and issues surrounding wildlife as well.

    We do not need another animal rescue, we need a completely independant non-profit like the International SPCA to begin to put pressure on the Government.

  18. Anonymous says:

    As a dog owner I love the idea of a dog park! I’m happy to use existing parks as long as people pick up after their dog. That’s another issue that people here don’t seem to care about!!

    Ms. Catron – XXXXX I think it’s good that you are sharing some important points with the general public – even if it serves as a reminder for some.

    The other matter that needs to be regulated – why do we allow just anyone to call themselves a breeder? So many are breedings dogs for just a quick buck and their health is suffering. Someone should clamp down on this as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Picking up or not, dogs should not be anywhere near a children’s park.  They need their own place for the safety of the dogs and children. 

      The children’s parks whose land and equipment were kindly donated by you know who are in a dangerous state of disrepair; their upkeep the responsibility of CIG; which they in turn failed to execute. With so little interest and resources currently allocated to our offspring, it’s seems futile to suggest that our gov’t supply us with a dog park.  

      It seems if this idea is to get anywhere the funds will have to come from the private sector via land donations and fundraisers.  Sandra, please feel free to spearhead this.  

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anyone reading can feel free to donate the land for Cayman’s first dog park. 

  20. Joe Average says:

    Very good Sandra.  thank you.

  21. Linda Craig says:

    Ms.Catron – very well said.  Thank you. 

  22. Anonymous says:

    A good reminder that a pet is not a toy that children can discard. It’s a wonderful way to teach someone to be responsible but it has to be enforced – otherwise the poor animal will only suffer.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well written and some good tips! Sandra sounds like this experience was an eye opener for you. Thanks for sharing.