by Gemma Handy
A love for dogs – and the kindness of a stranger – has inspired one frequent vacationer to Antigua to launch a fundraiser aimed at giving back to the island she first visited three decades ago.
During one trip three years ago, Terri Amato fell in love with a stray pup she was feeding at Fort James.
Sadly, it was too sick from a tick-borne disease to take home to North Carolina as she had hoped, and she was forced to put it to sleep. But she never forgot the dog, or the compassionate stranger who held her hand while it was euthanised.
Amato is now on a mission to raise US$10,000 for the Antigua Spay and Neuter Clinic to help reduce the number of roaming animals on the nation’s streets.
A GoFundMe page she’s launched has already raised almost a third of her target.
“I always feed the strays while I’m in Antigua, but I thought there’s got to be something more effective I can do as a tourist,” she told Observer.
“I’m working on a little poster and a brochure that I want to get distributed around so that other tourists who see animals in distress can help. But the main thing is to try and help prevent animals being in distress in the first place.
“That’s why the Spay and Neuter Clinic was my focus – to help reduce the overpopulation and also help people who have multiple pets that just need a hand getting them spayed or neutered,” Amato explained.
Local animal welfare groups – such as the PAAWS rescue shelter in Parham – say the Covid pandemic has seen an uptick in the number of homeless dogs as more families are forced to make the agonising decision to give up their pet.
Amato hopes her campaign will enable more people to keep them.
“I hope to exceed the target but whatever we get will really help and make an impact for the people and their animals,” she continued.
“The impact of Covid has caused such hardship for so many people; tourism was down, the island was in lockdown and people have been struggling, so spay and neutering pets becomes on the back burner.
“But if we can make it affordable – or at no cost for people who are in need – it will make a big difference.
“Last year when we were in Antigua, a dog was killed by a car and it was obviously a stray and it was heartbreaking to see. It’s so important to get dogs off the streets and not roaming – and the way to do that is spaying and neutering,” she added.
Since the Antigua Spay and Neuter Clinic was founded in 2017 it has operated on thousands of dogs and cats, while helping prevent the birth of many more.
A spokeswoman for the clinic told Observer the charity was delighted to be the beneficiary of Amato’s campaign – and urged more residents to make use of its service.
Low cost spay and neuter procedures take place at The Ark in Sir Vivian Richards Street, St John’s, each Wednesday. Call 788-3647 to make an appointment.
Details of both the fundraiser and the clinic can be found on the Antigua Spay and Neuter Clinic’s Facebook page.