By Rajesh Chintaman

While many humans relish this time of travel and summertime fun, this is in stark contrast to the lives of many pets, which at this time of the year are callously abandoned, forced to fend for themselves, and, in the worst case, dumped far from their known home.

Veterinary clinics on the Dutch side of the island have noticed this trend over the years and are calling on pet owners and residents to be responsible and caring when it comes to the animals that are under their protection.

In an ideal island mind-set, families serious about adding a pet into their family unit, should be using this time of year to smoothly include a pet in their regular routine and to bond.

By building a routine, children and adults would be able to bond and create lasting memories and contact with pets. However, according to the animal clinics on the island, this is the worst time of the year for pets.

Animal Care Center veterinarian Virginie De Ceuster said, “While year ’round we see the abandonment of animals, this time of year we see a spike in animals being dumped. A lot of people go on holidays and make no provisions for their pets.”

Some people, she said, fail to take into consideration the cost of year-’round care for animals and at vacation time just start their trips and hope that the pets are okay.

The vet explained that simple planning can make a world of difference for these animals: “You can board your pets at the various clinics on the island; you can ask a family member or friend to drop by to feed and check on your pet; you can, in some cases, take your pet on the trip with you; and there are pet-sitting services available on the island.”

She said that while some of these options come with a cost, it is the responsible thing to do. “When you adopt or take home a pet, you are starting at the least a 12-year responsibility to that pet,” the vet said.

St. Maarten Veterinary Clinic Office Manager Dekha Swanston said, “It is sad and we have to end this brutal cycle of cruelty inflicted on our island’s pet population.

We are currently dealing with calls that within the last three weeks no less than 11 dogs were dumped in the Dawn Beach, Red Pond and Oyster Pond areas. Some residents of the areas and volunteers are trying to keep them fed and healthy.”

One of the biggest challenges faced by clinics is housing and caring for abandoned pets. “While we make space for abandoned pets and incur the cost for their care, we do also have to run a business,” Swanston explained, adding that it becomes a challenge at this time of the year. The clinic’s boarding capacity is booked three to four months in advance.

She also reminds pet owners that forward planning is very important when it comes to going on vacation or leaving the island. “To organize for us to board your pets, you have to plan ahead.

At least two to three months before your trip, you should contact your vet to arrange boarding.” She also advocates using a family member to pet-sit or visit the pets daily to feed and play with them.

Swanston said that in most cases abandoned dogs and cats are adults, and as such are even more difficult to get re-adopted. “People like to adopt puppies and kittens and this creates a challenge for our clinics that are most of the time full to capacity with abandoned adult cats and dogs.”

Animal Hospital’s assistant vet Fokelien Boersma said, “Adopting a cat or a dog is not like buying a car. You have to have a good plan for the animal you are taking home. You have to plan this very carefully.”

The process that should be followed when considering adoption of a cat or dog should include understanding whether your home can accommodate a pet; if you are renting, whether pets are allowed; the time and responsibility that should be invested into the care of the selected pet; and understanding that your new pet should be considered part of your extended family. Just like children, they too require care, a home and love.  

She said the best time to adopt a pet is when serious consideration and planning are given to the idea of having a pet included in the family circle.

She said this time of the year the clinic sees a lot of abandoned adult cats and dogs, mainly because some people don’t plan properly when it comes to the care of their pets. “It is almost like they are forgotten and then at the last minute they have no idea what to do with the pet.”

If you would like to make a positive impact on the life of another living creature, make sure that there is good planning, make sure you are able to financially afford the pet and make sure that you offer that living creature the respect it deserves as part of your extended family.

Pictured: Ashweerda Webster, Sade Swanston and Samantha Monsterin with some of the puppies and kittens ready for a new home.