An animal charity on a small island in the Pacific has issued an urgent plea for help, as the country’s rapidly growing animal population struggles to receive basic care without the help of a vet.
With 20,000 dogs currently roaming the island of Tonga, the need for veterinary care has never been more urgent, says the Tongan Animal Welfare Society (TAWS).
The organisation, which was started earlier this year, is the first charity of its kind in the nation and has been overwhelmed by calls for help for dogs who have been injured, abandoned or uncared for.
The group’s vice president Angela Glover said the situation is only worsening as more puppies are being born every day without a vet to de-sex the animals.
“People do not have money for their own family, let alone animals,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “And the government do no funding for animal welfare.
“There is a different attitude to animals here. They are not like family members - they are just animals. [But] there is a huge change we are seeing in the treatment of dogs.”
While she finds more and more people do want to help their pets, they usually can’t afford it or don’t know where to seek help.
In the past two days alone Angela and her team have assisted more than 40 dogs and puppies - some simply needed worming medication, while one had been badly burned and another had been hit by a car.
Tragically, animals that have been hit with machetes or had rocks thrown at them are a regular sight, and puppies and kittens are often found infested with fleas.
It’s not uncommon to find entire litters that have been dumped in boxes.
Heartbreakingly, there is only a limited amount of help TAWS can offer.
No equipment or skills to perform operations
When they heard of a dog being run over by a van nearby the team rushed to help, guided by South Pacific Animal Welfare (SPAW) vet Geoffery Neal, who was able to talk them through the first aid process via a video call from New Zealand.
“But we only have pain relief, so we can only hope the poor baby pulls through,” Angela said.
“There is a clinic here but no qualified vets and the care team are small and the clinic has barely any medical supplies.
“They don't have the skills to perform operations and we in Tonga don't have the equipment to see what damage has been done. All we can do is try to make him more comfortable and see if he pulls through.”
The 49-year-old former television producer from London moved to Tonga four years ago with her partner, James.
The couple own a tattoo business on the island, but Angela’s love for animals soon earned her the nickname of “the dog lady” among the locals.
Now, along with her team of six fellow volunteers, she is helping multiple animals on a daily basis with a limited number of supplies that are quickly running out.
TAWS are desperately seeking flea, tick and worming pills, kitten and puppy formula and sutures and cannulas for the clinic.
“Most importantly we need a vet,” Angela said. “We are desperately trying to get a qualified vet to come and live and work here.”
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