December 06, 2012
Volunteer training has begun for Operation Potcake, the free 10-day spay and neuter programme set for January 10-21 throughout New Providence. Saturday kicked off a training and planning weekend with instructional sessions by members of Animal Balance, the experts who were in Nassau to conduct specialised training for local volunteer teams. All trainees will participate in Operation Potcake, together with animal experts and dozens of other local volunteers with the planned goal of sterilising up to 2,000 animals in 10 days. Many topics were covered, including: how to set up clinic locations; how to humanely capture stray and feral animals; how to properly register animals and make sure they are tagged correctly and returned to the right place or owner; post-surgery care; recovery stage care; as well as safety for animals, volunteers and the public.
With a wide grin, Consie Von Gontard, who specialises in capturing techniques, announced to everyone that “Potcakes are wicked smart” – referring to their uncanny knack for evading her normal capture methods. She then talked about ‘JuggaJuice’, a special concoction of food and water that attracts the dogs to her feeding areas, and helps outsmart even the cleverest ones. Consie is the Director of Training at the Florida State Response Coalition, which assists in recovery following natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. She is used to dealing with stray and lost animals and is coming to Nassau in January to assist with Operation Potcake as a member of the ‘Animal Balance’ team led by Emma Clifford.
Ms Clifford explained in detail how each clinic must operate for everything to run smoothly and effectively once the sessions begin. She said: “It is crucial that each clinic has a good ‘flow’ to make sure the animals are well cared for throughout each part of the process, from efficient registration and accurate numbering, to preparation through to surgery, then to the recovery area, which must be quiet and well organised to ensure success.” Animals that are dropped off in the morning will be ready for collection in the afternoon and times will be posted at each location closer to start-up.
Emma has a wealth of experience with situations like ours. Her organisation deals solely with island nations and the members of her dedicated team and other expert volunteers from around the world will set up the five locations: Fox Hill, Kemp Road, East Street and Carmichael Road as well as one Western Clinic that will cover Gambier, Mt Pleasant and Adelaide. Each team will comprise of foreign and local animal specialists with support staff for registration and recovery.
Emma told the trainees: “This will be the first time that all animal welfare groups, the government and local communities will come together on such a massive scale to address the island-wide overpopulation of animals and is the largest campaign that Animal Balance has been involved in to date. “This effort will have a significant impact on communities very quickly and with the help of the local veterinary clinics and animal welfare groups, this work will continue over the next five years. “New Providence will become a cleaner, healthier, quieter place, not only in residential neighbourhoods but also in the tourist areas.“Millions of visitors to the Bahamas encounter this problem each year and some become quite distressed by the poor condition of the animals on Nassau’s streets, so Operation Potcake will benefit everyone.”
Over the weekend, the groups visited all locations – currently a mixture of empty buildings, community centres and open air locations – to see what each will need to become a working clinic. There was a tremendous response from locals and community leaders, who walked with volunteers and helped identify areas where animals need the most attention. Community involvement is being encouraged and anyone who knows a dog in need of sterilisation is being asked to bring the animal to the nearest clinic site at the designated drop off time. All treatment is free.
The teams also hope to help areas with many street dogs, which are fed by residents but do not have a true owner. These animals tend to roam in packs, turn over garbage cans while foraging for food and cause a general nuisance. If they are not sterilised, the males pursue females, bark continuously at night, fight with each other and cause much more disruption than neutered dogs. Fixed animals tend to stay in their area, defend it, become less aggressive and more manageable. Operation Potcake hopes to provide free accommodations, meals and transport for all 100-plus volunteers, who are using their vacation time and paying their own way to come to the Bahamas from all over the world.
They are scheduled to operate the clinics on 12-hour shifts, so will endure very long workdays. “It would be wonderful if New Providence could show its appreciation in the form of some world-renowned Bahamian hospitality, to thank them for their contribution,” one local organiser said. Anyone wishing to volunteer, donate to the cause, or help in any other way, should call 356-5138. For more information, including lists of needed items and further updates, visit www.operationpotcake.com/donate/non-medical-supplies-list/ or connect with “Operation Potcake and the Bahamas 5 Year Spay & Neuter Initiative” on Facebook.
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